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Catalan leader unveils new govt after coalition crisis

Seven new faces entered Catalonia’s regional administration on Tuesday, now a minority government following a crisis that saw the hardline JxCat withdraw from the separatist coalition.

“We are turning a new page and will continue working with total determination,” said regional leader Pere Aragones of the left-wing ERC party following his government’s first meeting without JxCat.

JxCat decided to quit the coalition after 55 percent of party activists voted to leave against 42 percent who wanted to stay.

Although JxCat’s departure left ERC running a minority government with just 33 of the Catalan parliament’s 135 seats, Aragones ruled out early elections, quickly moving to restructure his cabinet.

Four of the new ministers are from ERC and three from other allied separatist parties.

In order to pass key measures such as the regional budget, Aragones could seek support from Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists, whose minority left-wing coalition is backed by ERC within the Spanish parliament.

Although both ERC and JxCat want independence for Catalonia, they have been sharply at odds over how to achieve it.

JxCat is headed by former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont who played a key role in staging the October 2017 referendum banned by Madrid and the failed independence bid that followed, sparking Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

Puigdemont fled abroad to escape prosecution while others who stayed in Spain were arrested and tried. Nine were handed heavy jail terms by the Spanish courts but later pardoned.

The failed independence bid triggered a bitter rift between the two separatist parties that has never healed.