Catalan separatist parties are threatening to upend the Spanish government's 2019 budget proposal, a move that could potentially prompt snap elections in the country.
Catalan pro-independence parties — the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) — said Monday that they would file parliamentary amendments opposing the government's 2019 budget proposal unless Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez made concessions on the thorny subject of Catalan independence.
While PDeCAT wants the government to launch a nationwide dialogue between political parties "to address politically the Catalan issue," parliamentary spokesperson Carles Campuzano told Reuters Monday, the ERC meanwhile has requested an authorized referendum on the region's independence.
Sanchez presides over a minority Socialist government in the southern European country and he relies on the support of Catalan nationalist parties, the populist Podemos party and other smaller regional parties to pass legislation.
If the secessionists' amendments are not withdrawn, and if they are approved by a majority in Parliament, the entire budget bill cannot be discussed and would effectively be derailed. This would pressure Sanchez's minority government into calling a snap election, something the prime minister has already mooted as a possibility.
"A failed budget vote could potentially open the door to early general elections, the timing of which is still unclear," Antonio Barroso, deputy director of research at Teneo Intelligence, said in a note Tuesday.
Crucially, February 12 is the last day that pro-independence parties can withdraw their amendments to the draft budget. It is also the day when a high-profile trial against a group of Catalan separatist leaders who were involved in the 2017 push for independence begins.