MADRID (Reuters) - Catalan leaders said on Tuesday they would press ahead with regional elections in September meant as a proxy vote on independence from Spain, despite separatist parties losing in Barcelona’s town hall election.
A leftist coalition led by social activist Ada Colau and backed by new anti-austerity party Podemos beat secessionist forces on Sunday to win the most votes in Barcelona’s city council, one of the biggest upsets in local elections held across the country.
Her victory dealt a blow to Catalonia’s pro-independence movement, which sees Barcelona as a future state capital, and especially to Convergencia i Unio (CiU), the party of Catalan President Artur Mas which previously held the town hall.
Support for independence is on the wane in some areas and is fractured among differing separatist camps.
“The split of the secessionist vote in Barcelona has given way (to a situation) in which, in the end, by a narrow margin, a person who does not represent a secessionist political force will be mayor,” Mas told a regional radio station on Tuesday.
Despite the setback, Mas insisted there would be elections across the northeastern region, which follow elections in 13 of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities on Sunday. “There will be elections on September 27,” he said.
The independence movement in Catalonia, a region with its own language and a strong local economy, thrived during the recession in Spain. But it has shown signs of fading after mass demonstrations in support of the movement last year, even though most Catalans want a say on their sovereignty
CiU’s share of votes fell to 21.5 percent from 27.1 percent four years ago in the elections held in almost 1,000 towns in Catalonia on Sunday, though it still won the most support.
The backing for separatist forces as a whole, including leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), grew compared to the last local election, reaching 45 percent of the vote between three parties.
But they aim to score at least 50 percent of the vote at regional level to kickstart an agreed “roadmap” towards independence.
Narciso Michavila, head of polling firm GAD3, said: “In my view the secessionist movement in Catalonia died once Barcelona changed hands.”
Additional reporting by Inmaculada Sanz and Raquel Castillo; Editing by Julien Toyer and Janet Lawrence