One day after parties that want Catalonia to secede from Spain won an absolute majority in the region’s elections, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy issued a politely phrased rejection of their ambitions.
“I am ready to listen and to talk, but not in any way to liquidate the law,” he said on Monday. “I am not going to talk about either the unity of Spain, or sovereignty.”
In Sunday’s vote, the Junts pel Sí (“Together for Yes”) party scored 62 of the 135 parliament seats. Coupled with the pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, which netted 10 seats, groups that support Catalan independence from Spain won the majority of seats in an election billed as a referendum on whether to pursue secession. Junts pel Sí, which is led by Catalan President Artur Mas, wants Catalonia to be an independent state by 2017.
Catalonia represents at least one-fifth of Spain's GDP and many of its residents feel as if they are disproportionately taxed by the government in Madrid. Catalan leaders have also called for more recognition of the region’s distinct culture and language. (For more on that, read Irene Boada’s piece about how efforts to ban the Catalan language under Spanish dictator Francisco Franco may have ensured its survival.)