Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, survived a confidence vote on Thursday he had called in July, when a small far-left party in his coalition rejected his budget proposal for 2017.
Puigdemont came to power in January under a deal with the anticapitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP).
Puigdemont’s own party, Together for Yes, has 62 out of 135 seats in the regional legislature against 63 for the parties that oppose independence. With ten seats, the CUP holds the balance of power.
Although Puigdemont and the CUP agree on breaking away from Spain, they have little else in common, as I wrote here this summer. The CUP would pull an independent Catalonia out of the European Union and NATO, for example, whereas Together for Yes wants membership of both. The CUP’s economic program is basically Marxist whereas Puigdemont’s is middle-of-the-road.
Thursday’s confidence vote doesn’t help bridge this divide. CUP leaders insisted they were not giving Puigdemont “carte blanche“.
But the outcome does allow the regional president to press ahead with plans to declare independence from Spain — unilaterally, if need be.
His coalition is currently erecting state institutions, such as an independent tax agency and social security services. A referendum on independence is planned for September of next year.
Polls suggest Catalans are evenly split on the issue. An official survey last year showed a plurality in favor of Catalonia becoming an even more autonomous entity or a federal state of Spain.
The central government in Madrid has ruled out such options and repeatedly blocked a formal independence referendum in what is Spain’s wealthiest region.