President Artur Mas steps down

Following elections last September, politicians in the North-Eastern region of Catalonia have been unable to agree on a leader. What will happen now the stalemate has been broken?

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Since 27th September 2015, the autonomous region of Catalonia in the North East of Spain has in effect been without a government, as the political parties were unable to reach agreement on who should be President. The regional election handed a coalition of separatist political parties a victory with the largest number of seats but no overall majority.
 
Small party refuses to back incumbent leader
CUP, a very pro-separatist party, has all along refused to vote for Artur Mas, the outgoing President and leader of “Together for Yes” (Junts pel sí,) as the region’s leader. Had no agreement been reached by Sunday 10th January, voters in Catalonia would once again have had to go to the polls to break the deadlock.
 
"Literally at the 11th hour, Artur Mas agreed to step aside owing to lack of support, and the ex- mayor of Girona, Carles Puigdemont, was voted in as leader with 70 votes to 63"
 
Literally at the 11th hour, Artur Mas agreed to step aside owing to lack of support, and the ex- mayor of Girona, Carles Puigdemont, was voted in as leader with 70 votes to 63. Mr. Puigdemont has always been a fervent supporter of an independent Catalonia, and his election will undoubtedly precipitate the region’s attempts to break away from Spain and form an independent country. However, he has admitted on TV that he does not currently have the backing to go ahead with a declaration of independence.
 
Madrid has its own problems
Meanwhile in Madrid there is another political void, as the results of the General Election on 20th December 2015 also produced no party with an absolute majority, though President Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party (Partido Popular, PP) received the highest number of votes. He has been trying to form a coalition ever since - so far unsuccessfully. 
 
The opposition party with the second largest number of seats, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE), will try to form a government if Mr. Rajoy fails. Neither the PP nor the PSOE will countenance an independent Catalonia, while the party which came 3rd in December’s Election, Podemos, would be prepared to allow an official referendum in the region to determine its future. The political party Ciudadanos, which came 4th in the election and has its roots in Catalonia, wants discussions to address the concerns of the Catalans, namely taxes that the region pays and more autonomy, but is against outright independence.
 
"Mariano Rajoy remains President of Spain but is as yet able to form a coalition government"
 
President Rajoy speaks on TV
Following the election of Carles Puigdemont in Catalonia, Mariano Rajoy appeared on TV and said that “The separatist rhetoric has not changed, but in these two months we have witnessed the strength of the rule of law,” after speaking with the heads of the Socialists and Ciudadanos. “We have more tools than ever to defend our unity. All the main political forces agree.”
 
How is this affecting Spain?
It is unsurprising that all this uncertainty is affecting Spain in a similar way to the looming referendum in Britain regarding staying or leaving the EU. Markets like stability, and for now, this seems out of reach for the Spanish people. With a new and vehemently pro-independent leader in Catalonia and no government formed in Madrid, the immediate future doesn’t seem at all clear, which will put pressure on Spain’s stock market and maybe its property market too. House prices are unlikely to increase in the short term, however unemployment is significantly down and exports are high, which may help Spain to continue its economic recovery despite the political problems facing it.

Further reading for Living In Spain

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