Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his ruling Socialists hold less than a quarter of the seats in the lower house and need the support of Catalan separatist parties to pass the fiscal bill. But with Madrid accusing Catalan parties of refusing to enter talks and the trial of 12 jailed independence leaders starting on Tuesday, a compromise looks increasingly unlikely. In light of the impasse, Mr Sanchez is eyeing up a snap election for mid-April, according to Spanish news agency EFE.
Citing unnamed government sources, the agency reported that the Prime Minister is considering April 14 for the ballot.
Online newspaper El Confidencial cited sources close to Sanchez as “totally” ruling out that date, but the chances of his administration serving its full term, scheduled to run until 2020, appear slim.
But Socialist party Deputy Secretary General Adriana Lastra today confirmed that an early election was certain if the budget vote did not pass.
The snap election warning comes just days after Madrid accused Catalan separatist leaders of refusing to enter negotiations on the budget.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the pro-independence groups had refused to come to the table because they want a referendum on independence included on the agenda, which Madrid would not accept.
Speaking on February 8, she said: “For years they have been asking for dialogue. We have done it. If that is not enough, we need to stop.”
Catalan independence parties have until Wednesday to declare whether they will continue to object to the budget.
But the deadlock over the budget is likely to be a secondary issue for Catalan separatists as the trial of 12 politicians from the region face trial on Tuesday.
The group face prison sentences of up to 25 years for their part in Catalonia’s failed independence bid.
The secession vote went ahead in October 2017 despite being banned by Madrid. Catalonia unilaterally declared independence later that month.
Meanwhile, huge demonstrations have taken place in Madrid as demonstrators from the conservative People’s Party (PP) and Citizens party, supported by members from the far-right Vox, took to the streets in protest at negotiations with the Catalan separatists.
Polls have shown that the conservatives, centre-right and far-right, all of whom have taken a harder line on Catalonia than Sanchez, could win enough votes in a national election to govern together.
Tens of thousands of protestors marched in the Spanish capital to demanded early elections and the end of Mr Sanchez’s government.
The leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, said: “Sanchez’s government time is over, we have elections within 100 days and we have to go to the polls.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.