The draft budget of the government of Pedro Sanchez was blocked by an alliance of right-wing deputies, liberals and separatists.

Faced with this disavowal, the head of government should convene early parliamentary elections.

If the socialist government in Spain still had some slight hope of having its 2019 budget approved for the first time, it flew on Wednesday 13 February. Indeed, a majority of 191 deputies out of 350 voted in favor of amendments intended to block the budget and presented notably by the Popular Party (PP, right), the liberals of Ciudadanos and the two Catalan separatist parties, resulting in the condemnation of text even before it can be voted.

Catalonia, a lawsuit and divisions

The separatists demanded strong gestures

Attempts to seduce Pedro Sanchez at the head of a minority government – the Socialists have only 84 deputies out of 350 – to attach the indispensable support of Catalan separatists have not worked. And the alliance with the Radical Left Party Podemos was not enough. Even the promise of the socialist government to spend 18% of state investment on Catalonia – 52% more than in 2018 – did not convince the separatists to vote the budget. The latter demanded strong gestures. The Catalan government had been talking for several weeks with Madrid to develop a framework for discussions to end the crisis on the eternal Catalan question.

But the announcement of the appointment of a "rapporteur" to coordinate exchanges between the two parties has shattered the discussions. Pedro Sanchez had to face not only the strong opposition of the right and liberal centrists, but also the internal anger of several socialist barons. This figure of the rapporteur looked for a lot to a concession to the Catalan separatists, in exchange for the vote on the budget.

The demand of Catalan President Quim Torra to then include a debate on self-determination, did not settle anything, igniting even more the spirits. The demand for a referendum of self-determination for Catalonia is a red line that could not be crossed by the Spanish government.

Anticipatory Legislative

The Catalan separatists, the same ones who last May supported the motion of censure by Pedro Sanchez against the government of Mariano Rajoy, took the decision on February 13 to end the Spanish government's legislature. Especially since the news is dominated since Tuesday, February 12, by the trial in Madrid Catalan independence for their participation in the referendum on the independence of Catalonia (1st October 2017), prohibited by the Constitution.

Voting for the Socialist budget, while former Catalan leaders are on the bench, risking up to 25 years in prison, became politically and emotionally impossible for the separatists. Left to rush into the unknown.

Catalonia, the trial of the separatists does not leave the Spaniards indifferent

And now ? Pedro Sanchez should convene early parliamentary elections early, possibly on April 28, although he can theoretically extend the last budget and stay in power. In this perspective, the emergence in the political landscape of the extreme right-wing party Vox, during the elections in January in Andalusia, yet a bastion of the Socialist Party, worries the left and the separatists.

The Socialist Party fears a replica of the Andalusian scenario in other Spanish regions during these elections, while the pro-independence trial, scheduled for three months, will still be underway. Several polls, the latest of which was published on Wednesday, give the Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos and the far-right party Vox able to form a majority at the national level.

Valérie Demon, in Madrid

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