Puigdemont hails defeat for Spain: Catalonia polls
Puigdemont hails defeat for Spain: Catalonia polls
Elections called for 80% of the population
23 December, 2017, 10:19
However, the two men made clear they were working off different sets of presumptions for a potential dialogue.
However, he did not clarify whether he would be willing to meet deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Brussels and whose party retained its position as the largest separatist force. The new parliament would not be able to elect him for the post unless he returns to Barcelona, the regional capital, but he is likely to be arrested when he turns up on Spanish soil.
With well over 99 per cent of votes from Thursday's election counted, separatist parties had secured a slim majority.
He said the election results do not affect the decision on whether or not to release them. "Recognizing reality is vital if we are to find a solution".
This was an apparent reference to Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, also known as the "nuclear option".
"I will make an effort to dialogue with the government that forms in Catalonia, but I expect it to stop acting unilaterally and outside the law", Rajoy said during a media briefing.
By risking an election in the wealthy region, Rajoy appears to have made the same mistake that leaders such as Greece's Alexis Tsipras, Britain's David Cameron and Italy's Matteo Renzi have made in recent years: betting that voters would resolve their troublesome domestic conundrums for them.
Millions headed to the polls in Thursday's crucial vote on the regional parliament, which was called by Madrid after it declared October's Catalan independence referendum illegal.
After several strained months that saw secessionists organize an illegal referendum on October 1, and police confiscate urns to try to prevent it from taking place, the election result has done nothing to resolve the standoff either.
That vote saw 90 percent of Catalans choose independence, although turnout was lower than 50 percent.
However the Citizens party, which wants Catalonia to remain a semi-autonomous part of Spain, is the biggest party. But its 37 seats aren't enough for it to form a regional government on its own. Along with the 34 seats won by Puigdemont's party, its main separatist rival, the left-wing republican ERC party, collected 32 seats.
Puigdemont said he aimed to win the support of the European Union for his cause, but it has so far backed Rajoy, saying it supports constitutional order, and that it is an internal matter for Spain. "It's a good reflection of the reality that Catalonia is politically divided", he added. "As there's a lack of stability here, people who were investing here are going to other cities and other regions", said Rafael Prisco, commercial director in a real estate agent in central Barcelona that deals mostly with foreign clients.
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