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Mas vows referendum drive despite poor Catalan poll results

CiU will meet with ERC and Socialists to try to form a government

Regional premier's political partner denies pressure for leader's resignation

After his worse-than-expected showing at the polls, Catalan regional premier Artur Mas rejected notions on Monday that he will step down while at the same time vowing to press ahead with his CiU bloc’s plan to hold a sovereignty referendum in Catalonia.

Mas and Josep Antoni Duran Lleida — the leader of the Unió half of CiU — told the press at a joint news conference that they don’t regret calling elections two years early, despite the fact that their grouping lost 12 seats in the regional parliament. Both officials said they would open talks with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the Catalan Socialists (PSC), which now have 21 and 20 seats respectively, to see about forming a coalition government.

Mas’ Catalan CiU nationalist bloc won 50 seats — far from obtaining the absolute majority he had asked for. “We can’t govern alone,” said Duran.

“We are going to speak to ERC and the PSC but we are not going to set aside the referendum,” Mas added.

PSC leader Pere Navarro said that the Socialists “will listen” to what the CiU has to offer but will not make any immediate commitments.

When asked whether any CiU members had asked him to resign, Mas said his stepping down wasn’t an issue. “It never crossed his mind that he should resign,” Duran added.

But other political leaders aimed some tough criticism at Mas and the CiU — most notably coming from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who called the regional premier “a complete failure.”

“The CiU may have won but it erred in its political strategy,” the prime minister told members of his Popular Party (PP) during the organization’s national committee meeting on Monday.

Rajoy said that Mas and the CiU had “lost valuable time” by insisting on holding the elections as a way of allowing voters to legitimize his secessionist ideas.

For her part, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said that voters in Catalonia had shown that they don’t agree with Mas’ push for a referendum. “The people want a government that creates jobs and launches reforms,” she said.