Spain calls snap general election

Paralysed government bring forward election as Catalan politicians reject budget measures

FILE PHOTO: Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reacts during a session at Parliament in Madrid, Spain, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

Spain’s prime minister called a snap general election on Friday after Catalan separatists rejected the government’s budget measures earlier this week.

In a televised announcement, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he has dissolved parliament and will hold elections on 28 April.

“Between doing nothing and continuing without the budget and calling on Spaniards to have their say, I choose the second. Spain needs to keep advancing, progressing with tolerance, respect, moderation and common sense,” said Mr Sanchez.

Paralysis in government over spending brings forward a general election, which had already been planned for next year.

The ruling Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) failed to secure the additional votes it needed from two separatist Catalan parties, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT).

The government wanted to bring down the deficit but increase spending in regions such as Catalonia, Catalan politicians demanded that any deal must include a referendum on independence.

Twelve Catalan politicians and activists stood trial this week in Madrid, accused on ‘rebellion’ against Spain and misuse of public funds. They face jail terms of up to 25 years if found guilty.

Left wing party Podemos and centre-right Ciudadanos could see gains in Spain’s fragmented parliament as they enjoy large support. Elections could also open the door for far-right groups to enter Spain’s Congress. Historically shunned for decades, far-right support in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia gained support in December when far-right group Vox collected 10 percent of votes to gain 12 seats in the local parliament.