December 27, 2015 / 10:04 PM / 2 years ago

Catalonia pro-independence party fails to agree on new leader

A catalan independence supporter holds an Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) during a demonstration calling for unity amongst pro-independence parties in Barcelona, Spain, November 22, 2015.Albert Gea

MADRID (Reuters) - Catalonia's pro-independence movement suffered a setback on Sunday when it failed to agree on a new leader, potentially forcing the region into a new election.

Parties favoring a split between Spain and Catalonia won a majority of seats in a September regional ballot, but divisions between the groups undermined their prospects of pushing forward with an independence drive.

Pro-independence parties struck a tentative deal last Tuesday to form a government there.

But the agreement faltered on Sunday when the Catalan anti-capitalist party CUP, the minority partner in the pro-independence coalition, failed to reach a decision on its partner's candidate to lead the regional government, Artur Mas, who has been in power there since 2010.

The divided vote - in which 1,515 CUP members voted for Mas and the same number voted against him - raises the likelihood Catalonia will need to hold new elections, which would be the fourth since 2010.

The CUP plans to meet again Jan. 2, but if the issue remains undecided by a Jan. 9 deadline, a new election will be called automatically.

The deadlock in Catalonia comes as Spain faces weeks of uncertainty at a national level following an inconclusive general election.

Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who had defended Spanish unity and sought to block the independence drive over the past four years, lost his majority in the national election and could struggle to form a government.

Reporting by Catherine MacDonald and Paul Day; editing by Adrian Croft

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