Spain CRISIS: Election chaos as leaders ‘play with fire’ – Catalonia ‘conflict’ to ERUPT

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The crisis-hit country will take to the polls on April 28 in a general election triggered by the failure of Socialist party (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to win support for a new budget. He formed a minority Government last June when Mariano Rajoy of the Popular party lost a confidence vote after becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal. Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell was a minister in the 1980s and 1990s, a former leader of the Socialist party and President of the European Parliament.

He is tipped to move to the European Commission in Brussels if the socialists can form a new Government after the election.

But the outgoing veteran has fired a warning shot ahead of that, claiming democracy is being undermined by a culture of insult and incitement.

He said this is particularly the case through increasing radical right-wing and Catalan separatist parties feeding off each other.

Mr Borrell told the Financial Times: “We are playing with fire.

“There is a systematic exacerbation of tension and conflict, incited by people from both sides because that is what they live off.”

The latest opinion polls for next month’s crunch elections show the PSOE leading its traditional centre-right rival, the PP.

But PSOE are unlikely to be able to form a coalition Government against the right, as PP is likely to join forces with liberal party Ciudadanos (Citizens) and far-right Vox.

All three of these parties formed an alliance after the election in Andalucia in December but now Ciudadanos has gradually shifted to the right and dismissed any post-election partnership with PSOE.

PP leader Pablo Casado has been ridiculed after calling for a rightist front to defeat the “Popular Front”, which is a reference that preceded the civil war.

Vox, which has risen since the botched secession attempt in Catalonia in 2017 and presents itself as defending Spain from separatist dismemberment, wants to abolish the system of devolved Government following Franco’s centralism.

Mr Borrell said Madrid had tried to change the tone of the dispute over Catalan separatism or “reduce the inflammation”.

But he warned Spain can’t “resolve imaginary problems” for separatists who “live in a virtual world”.

The outgoing Foreign Minister also warned all sides cannot form dialogue by “crashing into demands impossible to accept”.

Mr Borrell also launched an attack against Ciudadanos, describing their decision to reject a centre-left alliance with the PSOE as “incomprehensible”.

He warned Spain could be polarised further if Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera presses ahead with plans to replace the PP as the standard-bearer on the right.

Mr Borrell told the Financial Times: “What message is this sending to voters?

“They are trying to say the PSOE has no other option but to depend on the separatists, and that the right can only govern with the extreme right.

“The is an invitation to extreme instability and whoever wants this is damaging our country.”

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