Catalan separatist parties to contest Dec 21 regional election called by Spain

BARCELONA (AFP) - The party of Catalonia's dismissed president Carles Puigdemont will run in a December regional election called by Spain's government in response to a declaration of independence by Catalan leaders, a spokeswoman said on Monday (Oct 30).

"We will go to the polls on (December) 21. We will go with conviction and with a commitment to letting the Catalan people express themselves," Ms Marta Pascal, spokeswoman for the PDeCAT party, told reporters.

The Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) party of Mr Puigdemont's equally deposed vice-president Oriol Junqueras said it would "participate" in some fashion in the election despite judging the poll "illegitimate", having been called by Madrid.

"Catalans do not fear the ballot box... and December 21 should be another opportunity to consolidate the republic," said ERC spokesman Sergi Sabria after a party meeting in Barcelona.

"On December 21, we shall find a means of participating, be it in standing or not," Mr Sabria added.

He added that "our republic does not for the moment fully have the capacity to impose itself as we would wish - but it is up to us to defend it," a visibly emotional Mr Sabria said.

On Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he had dissolved the Catalan Parliament and called a snap vote for the region under sweeping powers approved by the Senate to stop the secessionist movement.

Separatist parties of all political stripes, from Mr Puigdemont's Catalan Democratic Party conservatives to the far-left, have dominated the Catalan Parliament since the last election in 2015, holding 72 seats out of 135.

An opinion poll for Spain's El Mundo daily, taken before the secessionists declared their breakaway republic, on Monday said pro-independence parties would lose their parliamentary majority with a score of 42.5 per cent, if elections were held now.