Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called on the new Catalan parliament to meet on January 17 in a hope that it would later be able to form a government that is “open to dialogue.”
Once the parliament is formed, potential leaders of the regional government will put themselves forward for a vote of confidence, although it could take months for a new government to emerge. At the opening session, the parliament typically chooses a house speaker, who then calls on a candidate to try to form a government in the following days.
Governing Catalonia will remain in the hands of Spanish authorities until a new president and Cabinet are chosen. Rajoy has not ruled out seizing control of the region again, if necessary.
“I hope that as soon as possible we will be able to have a Catalan government that is open to dialogue and able to relate to all Catalans, not just half of them,” Rajoy said in an end-of-year address to the nation.
His comments follow a December 21 regional election that he hoped would quash the Catalan independence movement and so help resolve Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
Parties favoring a split with Spain instead gained a slim majority, but they may struggle to form a government, as one leader, Oriol Junqueras, is in custody in Madrid and the other, Carles Puigdemont, in self-imposed exile in Brussels.
Both were fired by Rajoy after they declared independence following a banned October 1 referendum on secession from Spain.
“The only shadow looming over our economy is the instability generated by the political situation in Catalonia,” said Rajoy, whose own center-right party performed miserably in the poll, in his speech from the prime minister’s palace in Madrid.
The political instability in Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy, has deterred tourists and prompted more than 3,000 companies, including the region’s two biggest banks, to move their legal headquarters elsewhere in Spain.
It remains to be seen if the secessionist parties, which won 70 of the regional parliament's 135 seats, will be able to form a government. Eight of their deputies elected last week are either in flight from justice or jailed in Spain while being investigated for alleged rebellion over the independence declaration.
Ciudadanos, which wants Catalonia to remain part of Spain and is led by Ines Arrimadas, gained the largest share of the popular vote but unionist parties did not win enough seats to govern by majority. The result instead raises the question of a return to power for Puigdemont, who campaigned from Brussels.
The three pro-independence parties were united in the previous parliament, but disagreements have arisen amid the fallout from the move to break away from Spain and the central government's takeover of Catalonia's affairs.