Catalonia’s president Puigdemont wins confidence vote

Outcome keeps on track plan for referendum on independence from Spain next year

The nationalist premier of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, has won a parliamentary confidence vote, the result of which is expected to keep on track a plan to break away from Spain via a referendum next year.

As anticipated, Mr Puigdemont won by 72 votes to 63 in the 135-seat regional parliament. He received the support of his own Junts pel Sí (or Together for Yes) coalition, as well as that of the anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP).

“Four years ago, only 14 deputies called for independence, now we are 72,” he told the chamber.

“With a Spanish state which does not generate trust, we have to trust in our own country [Catalonia] , and we can stand comparison with any advanced country in the EU,” he added.


Mr Puigdemont had called the confidence vote following disagreements between Junts pel Sí and CUP over the region’s annual budget which threatened to derail the independence drive. However, CUP’s support means the secession process, which technically began when the Catalan parliament approved an independence blueprint in July in defiance of the Spanish judiciary, can continue, despite staunch opposition from Madrid.

On Wednesday, the first day of the confidence motion debate, Mr Puigdemont announced a plan to stage an independence referendum in autumn of 2017. He said he hoped the Spanish government would support the vote, despite the fact that the acting administration of Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly labelled such a referendum as unconstitutional.

“My proposal isn’t aimed at Mr Rajoy, who is in a bunker, but rather at the Spanish political system,” Mr Puigdemont said on Thursday, suggesting that a change of central government could help his cause.

Spain has been without a permanent government for nine months, following two inconclusive elections, both of which Mr Rajoy's conservative Popular Party (PP) won without a majority. If a new government is not formed by the end of October, a third election will be called.

Catalonia staged an illegal referendum on independence in 2014, which the separatist cause won, albeit with a low turnout. In September 2015, a regional election was treated as a plebiscite on independence and pro-secession parties won, although without gaining a majority of the popular vote.

With the main Spanish opposition party, the Socialists, currently in disarray due to a rebellion against the leadership, Mr Rajoy remains the most likely candidate to form a new central government, suggesting there is unlikely to be a swift resolution to the Catalan issue. Of the four main national parties, only Podemos has said it favours a referendum on the Catalan issue.

Inés Arrimadas, leader of the liberal Ciudadanos party in Catalonia, told Mr Puigdemont during the debate that leading Catalonia away from Spain also meant exiting the European Union, as several EU leaders have warned.

"Catalonia doesn't need a Brexit, that's not our model and nor is Kosovo, " she said.

Acting deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría accused Mr Puigdemont of “straying from reality and legality”.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain