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A Rising Spanish Party Calls For Referendum On Catalonia Secession

Podemos Party leader Pablo Iglesias (right) seen here with Spain's Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez, has asked for a referendum on Catalan independence as their two parties negotiate forming a new government.
Francisco Seco

For the first time, one of Spain's major national parties is calling for a vote on whether the region should secede from the country. The issue has gained new prominence as Spain tries to organize a new government following its inconclusive elections in late December.

From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports for our Newscast unit:

"Podemos — a new left-wing party shaking up Spanish politics — says it wants to call a vote on whether to allow Spain's northeast region of Catalonia to break away and form a new country in Europe.

"No other Spanish party outside Catalonia is in favor of such a referendum. Podemos is in talks to take key Cabinet posts in a new Spanish government, led by the Socialists.

"Catalans are roughly divided 50-50 over whether to secede from Spain — but they're overwhelmingly in favor of voting on the question. The Spanish central government considers that illegal. Separatist leaders say if they're not allowed to vote, they'll break away from Spain unilaterally — as early as next year."

Coming off of a successful showing in national elections, Podemos made its request for a referendum as it negotiates the makeup of a new government with the Spanish Socialist Party. The leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, has said the referendum is "indispensable" to the process of resolving the Catalan question, citing similar secession issues in Scotland and Quebec, according to the Catalan News Agency.

The request didn't gain immediate traction among the Socialists.

"We will say no to this referendum," Spanish Socialist Party spokesman Antonio Hernando said, according to the CNA, adding that Iglesias "doesn't know where he stands."

Earlier this month, Spain's King Felipe VI asked Pedro Sanchez of the Spanish Socialists Workers' Party (the PSOE) to form a coalition government, after December's elections failed to anoint a new leader — and installed a number of anti-establishment candidates, as Lauren reported.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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