Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has congratulated the unionist Ciudadanos party for securing the most seats as a single party in Catalan parliament—but refused calls to meet with ousted leader Carles Puigdemont, who is poised to form a coalition government.
When asked on December 22 if Rajoy would meet with Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Brussels, the prime minister said he would only meet with "the party that won the elections".
"I will sit with the one who won the Catalan elections and that is the leader of the Ciudadanos party," said Rajoy. Ines Arrimadas leads the centre-right party.
Puigdemont just hours earlier said he would be willing to meet Rajoy for talks—but not in Spain.
No party won the elections outright, but three separatist groups took 70 of the 135-seat parliament, including Puigdemont's party (34) and the Republican Left known as ERC (32).
Ciudadanos scored 37 seats and fellow unionists, the Socialists party, took 17—falling short of the 68 needed to gain control of the regional government.
Rajoy, who refused to say the final vote count that saw unionists defeated, said pro-independence parties did not gain support despite the separatist win. He said pro-independence groups went from 74 seats in 2013 down to 70 this year.
Rajoy also defended his use of Article 155 when the region declared independence and said he has "no intention" to call for national elections.