November 20, 2019 / 6:45 PM / 17 days ago

Catalan separatists ERC to consult base on whether to support Spanish leftist coalition

MADRID (Reuters) - Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) on Wednesday said it would ask its members whether they wanted to back a coalition government deal between the Socialists and the left-wing Unidas Podemos.

The left-wing separatist ERC, which could act as a kingmaker in the formation of a new government, plans to clarify its position based on the response of grassroots members.

The binding consultation, which will be held on November 25, hinges on whether acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez will engage in dialogue over the issue of Catalan independence.

In a convoluted question, ERC is asking its members: “Do you agree with rejecting the investiture of Sanchez if previously there has not been an agreement to address the political conflict with the (Spanish) State around a negotiating table?”

Sanchez won an election earlier in November. But his 120 seats, combined with the 35 won by Podemos, leave them short of a majority in the 350-seat parliament, meaning the 13 elected lawmakers of the ERC party could play a key role in unblocking the political stalemate in Madrid.

The separatist party told Reuters last week its support in parliament is conditional on receiving an offer of dialogue on Catalan independence.

Catalonia’s independence drive loomed large over the election campaign, after anger at long jail sentences for nine separatist leaders sparked protests - at times violent - and prompted national parties, including the Socialists, to harden their stance on Spain’s most economically important region.

Reporting by Jessica Jones and Belen Carreño; editing by Jesús Aguado and Kirsten Donovan

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