Catalonia could break away even if it does not reach an agreement for independence with the rest of Spain, the region’s president has said.
“If Madrid does not want an accord and the majority of Catalans want an independent state, how can you avoid that?” Carles Puigdemont said about the possibility of declaring independence unilaterally.
Puigdemont, who was elected by parliament in a last-minute compromise between far-left and centrist supporters of independence in January, also told the Financial Times and other newspapers that Catalonia’s separatists could support a coalition government in Madrid that would commit to a formal referendum on independence.
Catalan parties have 17 out of 350 seats in the national parliament. They could help a broad coalition of the center-left to a majority, but only the far-left Podemos party supports a referendum. The liberal Ciudadanos and the Socialists, who tried to form a government earlier this month but fell short, both adamantly oppose secession.
Separatists nearly lost power in Catalonia last year. They eked out a five-seat majority in the regional legislature despite winning only 48 percent of the votes.
The parties, who said in advance they would interpret the election result as a de facto independence on referendum, have initiated the process of breaking away from Spain, including setting up an independent tax authority and social security services.
The outgoing central government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has frustrated Catalan moves toward independence at every turn, including asking the Constitutional Court to block the region’s agenda.
The same court earlier stopped an independence referendum and threw out most of Catalonia’s autonomy statute in 2010 in a suit that was also brought by Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party.
Only one in five Catalans wanted to secede at the time. Now nearly half the population of what is Spain’s wealthiest region would rather go their own way.