Political winds blow Catalan’s bid for statehood off course

By Daniel Bosque ,AFP

BARCELONA, Spain — Leaders seeking independence for Spain’s Catalonia region had the wind in their sails four months ago, but the change sweeping Spanish politics has blown them off course. Politicians warn that surging left-wing party Podemos is a ��Trojan horse�� disrupting the independence drive, while center-right Ciudadanos vows to sink the secessionists. Many in the rich industrial region, including its conservative leader Artur Mas, want to create a new state in Europe in defiance of the Spanish government. Mas got a boost when nearly two million Catalans backed independence in a symbolic poll in November. Banned by Spanish courts from holding a full referendum, Mas later called a regional election for next September to serve as a plebiscite on independence. But national politics have got in his way, with the rise of the two upstart political parties, on top of Mas’s disagreements with fellow pro-independence groups. ��In the coming months we will see the collapse of the secessionist plan,�� said Matias Alonso, the deputy leader of Ciudadanos. ��In the elections in September we will see a substantial change.��

Independence ‘road map’ Mas and the Republican Left party with whom he shares power in the regional parliament have agreed a ��road map�� for independence by 2017 which they vow to implement if they retain a majority in September’s vote. The plan threatens to hurt Mas, however, as it was rejected by parties including the UCD, which forms part of his CiU grouping. Overall, the pro-independence majority looks in danger. For the first time since June 2011, the Catalan regional government’s own opinion survey in February indicated a majority of Catalans saying ��No�� to independence �X 48 percent against 44 percent saying ��Yes.��

The poll indicated that due to the rise of Podemos and Ciudadanos, the two Catalan governing parties between them could fall short of an absolute majority for the first time since 1980.