Catalonia Coalition Splinters After Puigdemont Picks a Successor


Jordi Sanchez appeared on a screen during a rally in Barcelona, Spain, in December. The former Catalan leader Carles Puigdement proposed that Mr. Sanchez replace him.Credit Javier Soriano/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Catalonia’s pro-independence coalition splintered on Saturday over a proposal by Carles Puigdemont, the former leader of the restive Spanish region, to select his replacement from his own party while he remained in Belgium to avoid prosecution in Spain.

The political committee of the Popular Unity Candidacy — a far-left party known by its Catalan acronym, CUP — announced that its lawmakers would abstain from voting if two larger separatist parties presented Jordi Sanchez as candidate to lead Catalonia — as Mr. Puigdemont had proposed on Thursday, when he agreed to give up his campaign to be reappointed.

CUP has only four lawmakers among the 135 in the Catalan Parliament, but its backing is essential for the separatist coalition to keep the thin majority of 72 seats that it won in December, after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain called a snap election in the region.

Catalonia Coalition Splinters After Puigdemont Picks a Successor
Catalonia Coalition Splinters After Puigdemont Picks a Successor

One of the CUP lawmakers, Vidal Aragonés, on Saturday portrayed his party’s decision not as an attack on Mr. Sanchez himself, but as a way of criticizing other separatist parties for focusing on who should lead the pro-independence movement instead of agreeing on policies and a plan “to materialize the republic” of Catalonia, independent from Spain.

Despite its small size, CUP has long played a pivotal role in driving Catalonia toward independence. In January 2016, it forced a leadership change by blocking the re-election of Artur Mas, instead backing Mr. Puigdemont, then a city mayor and a relative unknown.

Even before the CUP announcement, Mr. Sanchez faced significant hurdles. He is in jail in Madrid pending his sedition trial and has repeatedly been denied bail by the judge leading the investigation into how separatist leaders held a referendum and declared unilateral independence in October, in violation of Spain’s Constitution.

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