Catalonia election: Puigdemont seeks talks with Spain

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy IANS

Catalonia's ousted leader Carles Puigdemont on Friday called for new talks with Spain after separatist parties won a slim majority in a regional election.

He said he wanted the negotiations in Brussels, where he is living in self-imposed exile, or in another EU country. However, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy later appeared to reject the idea, the BBC reported.

Rajoy said he would hold talks with the head of the new Catalan government but that leader would have to take up their post in Catalonia itself.

Millions headed to the polls in Thursday's crucial vote on the regional parliament, which was called by Madrid after it declared October's Catalan independence referendum illegal. The turnout was more than 80 per cent, a record for a Catalan regional election.

Rajoy deposed Catalonia's regional government after it made an illegal declaration of independence following the referendum in October.

The Prime Minister avoided naming Puigdemont, adding that the winner of Thursday's election was Inés Arrimadas, the leader of the Citizens party, which wants Catalonia to remain a semi-autonomous part of Spain.

The anti-independence Citizens party is now the region's biggest party although pro-independence parties are best placed to form a government. It secured 25.3 per cent of the vote, winning 37 seats in the 135-seat chamber.

"Catalonia wants to be an independent state," said Puigdemont, speaking in Belgium on Friday. "This is the wish of the Catalan people. I think the plan of (Spanish Prime Minister) Mariano Rajoy is not working, so we have to find new ways to tackle this crisis."

Rajoy's conservative Popular Party (PP) recorded its worst ever result in Thursday's vote. He had hoped that the poll would restore stability and said the Spanish government was "willing to talk in a realistic way and inside the law" with a future Catalan government.

"I offer Catalonia this because we care about the people" he said.

With nearly all the votes counted, the pro-independence parties Together for Catalonia (JxCat), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Popular Unity (CUP) were on course to win a total of 70 seats, giving them a majority in the new parliament.

Citizens party leader Arrimadas told the BBC that her party had been "victorious". She said forming a coalition would be "difficult -- but we will try".

Agusti Alcoberro, vice president of the Catalan National Assembly, said: "We can say that pro-independence forces have won the elections."

The European Commission said that its stance towards Catalonia remained the same, despite the election result. The executive arm of the EU previously stated that events in Catalonia were an internal issue of Spain.