MADRID (Reuters) - The two main Catalonian parties supporting a split from Spain agreed to present a joint candidacy for regional elections in September, reigniting the independence campaign before a November general election.
The centre-right Convergencia Democratica de Catalunya (CDC), led by Catalan governor Artur Mas, and separatist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) agreed late on Monday to put forward a joint list of candidates for local elections in September, ERC said in a statement.
“It is an agreement to win the elections with the aim of Catalonia becoming an independent state,” said CDC’s Josep Rull when he came out of the meeting, in comments published by El Pais.
The movement to break away from Spain reached new heights during the country’s six-year economic downturn as Catalans rejected austerity cuts enforced by the central government and called for more autonomony over taxes.
But in recent months political infighting and the emergence of leftist parties more interested in social issues than separatism has pushed the independence movement down the political agenda in the northeastern region.
An alliance between key parties pushing for secession could give the drive fresh impetus, however, posing another headache for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at a time when his government is trying to focus on fending off the rise of centre-right challengers and anti-austerity movements.
A third party supporting independence, CUP, was left out of the alliance. ERC has proposed creating a joint list led by leading figures from wider society rather than politicians.
Although support for independence has been fading in recent months, Catalan parties favouring a split from Spain could win a majority in September’s regional elections if they run as an alliance, a poll showed on Sunday.
That result could potentially trigger a “roadmap” towards independence, as Mas builds up the September 27 election as a proxy vote on the issue after failed attempts to hold an official referendum on secession last year.
The central government blocked a formal, non-binding poll on whether Catalonia wanted to be independent from Spain on the grounds such a vote would be against Spain’s constitution.
Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Angus MacSwan