Catalan secessionist parties to discuss way forward

MADRID: Catalonia's two main pro-independence parties will meet Monday to discuss how to salvage their drive to secede from Spain after a key far-left party refused to back the re-election of incumbent regional leader Artur Mas.

Mas' ruling conservative Convergence party and the Republican Left of Catalonia group joined forces under the "Together for Yes" alliance to win 62 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament last September. But they needed the support of the far-left CUP's 10 seats to secure Mas a workable majority and further the independence push.

The two larger parties will hold executive board meetings separately to discuss CUP's shut-out of Mas.

The region has until Jan. 10 to select a regional president or face a new local election, which Mas has warned could derail the independence drive.

Mas said Monday that he was determined to battle on, indicating an election was in the cards. He will hold a news conference Tuesday.

CUP's decision Sunday ended months of internal debate. The radical, anti-capitalist party had been an unlikely partner for Mas from the beginning and had long rejected his candidacy because of his government's austerity policies and his party's links to corruption scandals.

CUP on Monday insisted that "Together for Yes" could still propose another candidate and receive the party's backing.

"We haven't got many days left, a week's margin for a move, if desired, to avoid elections," CUP deputy leader Anna Gabriel told Catalunya Radio.

The alliance has so far maintained full support for Mas.

But veteran Republican Left deputy Joan Tarda appeared to break ranks, tweeting that "If Mas steps aside and lets another party member opt for presidency, we can form a government and the independence process goes forward."

Polls show that most Catalans support a referendum on independence, but are divided over breaking from Spain. The Spanish government has ruled out the possibility of a split.

Catalonia, a northeastern region of 7.5 million people, represents nearly a fifth of Spain's economic output.