MADRID (AFP) - Spain's embattled incumbent prime minister fell prey to a practical joke when an imitator pretending to be Catalonia's new separatist leader managed to speak to him on the phone on radio.
The improbably successful joke broadcast on Thursday (Jan 21) by a radio station in Spain's Catalonia region, where an independence movement is gathering pace, is another blow for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose attempts to form a government following inconclusive elections have so far fallen flat.
A presenter at Radio Flaixbac called the Moncloa presidency in the Spanish capital pretending to be working for Mr Carles Puigdemont, a separatist politician who was voted in as new Catalonia leader earlier this month to the fury of Madrid.
Transferred to Mr Rajoy's secretary, she told him the Prime Minister was in a meeting, but would soon be free.
Unable to believe his luck, a Puigdemont imitator at the radio station found himself on the phone minutes later with the Prime Minister, and a surprisingly cordial conversation began.
"How's life?" said Mr Rajoy, before exchanging a pleasantry.
The fake Mr Puigdemont then asked him if they could meet, which Mr Rajoy agreed to readily, depending on how negotiations to form a government were going.
"I think I can call you on Monday and depending on where we are... we will fix a date," he told the fake Mr Puigdemont.
"I have a very free schedule and we could meet 24 or 48 hours after."
Unable to keep the imposture going any longer, the radio presenter intervened and told Mr Rajoy that it was in fact an imitator on a radio station who was speaking to him.
"We didn't think we would pull this off... and we're probably as surprised as you are," he told the Spanish leader.
Clearly caught off guard, Mr Rajoy responded that "this is not very serious".
The joke made waves in Spain on Thursday, sparking mostly good-natured reactions, including from within Mr Rajoy's conservative Popular Party (PP).
Mr Rafael Hernando - spokesman for the PP's parliamentary group - said it showed that Mr Rajoy was willing to chat with a man who wants to lead Catalonia to independence from Spain, and with whom he is therefore at odds.
"I'm sure that Mr Rajoy would like Mr Puigdemont to call him for real," he told reporters.