Pro-secession parties in Catalonia agree on new coalition

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MADRID (AP) — Two Catalan separatist parties say they have reached an initial agreement to form a regional government in northeastern Spain, ending a three-month stalemate since elections were held.

The left-wing ERC party and the center-right Together for Catalonia party are rivals for power at the local and regional levels but agree that the dynamic region should secede from Spain.

Their agreement, in the wake of another pact between ERC and the far-left separatist CUP party, will likely make Pere Aragonès the next chief in Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million that has Barcelona as its capital.

Divisions had reached a breaking point last week over how to proceed with the push for secession and what influence the new administration should allow former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who is now a lawmaker in the European Parliament and a fugitive from Spanish justice.

Although former Spanish health minister and Socialist candidate Salvador Illa won the most votes in the Feb. 14 regional election, separatist parties together had more than half of the ballots. As the second most popular candidate, Aragonès tried but failed to form a government in March.

If unresolved, the political stalemate would have automatically led to a new election.

In a statement Monday, ERC and Together for Catalonia apologized for the delay in reaching an agreement.

Their aim, the parties wrote, is "to serve the country and its people in the best possible way, to govern for all and to advance towards the common goal of independence in the form of the Catalan Republic.”

Roughly 50% of Catalans want to carve out an independent state, while the other half want to remain a part of Spain.