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Early vote risk as Spain lawmakers due to block budget

Right-wing and Catalan separatist lawmakers are expected to block on Wednesday a draft 2019 budget which could force Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez into calling early elections.

The socialist prime minister, who came to power in June thanks in part to the support of 17 Catalan lawmakers in the national parliament and heads up a minority government, was depending on their votes to push his budget through.

But at a time when pro-secession leaders are on trial for their role in a 2017 attempt to break Catalonia from Spain, these lawmakers last week filed amendments to block the budget.

On Friday, negotiations that Madrid had started with pro-independence parties to try and ease the secession crisis broke down, angering separatists.

“If the socialist party maintains its position, we will vote in favour of the amendments,” Catalan regional president Quim Torra, in Madrid to attend the trial, threatened on Tuesday, speaking in the name of separatist parties.

As a result, the parliament is likely to approve the amendments later on Wednesday, meaning the government would in theory have to re-examine its budget and present a new, revised version.

In the current context, though, with Sanchez left with so little parliamentary support, analysts predict he will call early general elections.

“Legally he is not obliged to do so,” said Antonio Barroso, deputy research director at the Teneo Intelligence analysis group.

“But politically, the question is whether the government would be justified (in not calling polls).”