Catalan election due this year as ruling separatist coalition splits

Torra speaks in the Catalan parliament this week.
Torra speaks in the Catalan parliament this week. / REUTERS
  • Quim Torra says he will set the date for the vote once the regional budgets have been approved

Voters in Catalonia are to head to the polls in a regional election in the coming months, although the date hasn't been set yet.

On Wednesday, Catalan president, Quim Torra, summoned press for a statement in which he said that the relationship between his Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) political group and left-wing republicans, ERC, had broken down and that the regional government was effectively over.

Both these parts of the coalition support an independent Catalonia, despite different political ideas. Torra said that if they couldn't work together on the common project of a separate Catalan state, then the voters had to be asked to decide. He added that he wanted to see through the approval of the regional budgets (for this year) before setting a date for an election, which analysts see as not coming before June.

In recent months, the partnership of JxCat and ERC has been strained. ERC has moved closer to Pedro Sánchez's new government in Madrid, helping him back into power, and is in favour of trying to negotiate a political solution to the Catalan question. JxCat, increasingly isolated politically, wants a more activist stance.

Effects felt in Madrid

Torra has recently been banned from being a regional MP in a dispute over separatist symbols. A firm decision on whether he has to give up being Catalan president is expected soon.

Catalan elections could complicate the national political scene as Pedro Sánchez's minority government still needs to get national budgets approved with support or abstention of Catalan nationalists.

Sánchez and Torra are due to meet on 6 February. However the longer-term plan of ongoing roundtable talks between Madrid and Barcelona to discuss the Catalan question has been shelved by Sánchez until a regional election is over. The move is likely to further annoy ERC who had championed the meetings.