PM Rajoy says will fight for Spain unity ahead of Catalan leader vote


Madrid (AFP)

Spain's incumbent Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Sunday he would fight for his country's unity as the parliament in Catalonia prepared to vote in a new regional secessionist leader.

"The government won't allow a single act that could harm the unity and sovereignty of Spain," he said in a live televised appearance in Madrid.

At the same time some 600 kilometres (380 miles) away in Barcelona, lawmakers in Catalonia were deep in debate ahead of a vote on whether to approve Carles Puigdemont as regional president.

Catalonia's pro-independence faction that won regional parliamentary elections in September appointed him candidate on Saturday in a surprise move after months of in-fighting and divisions over who should lead the new local government.

The last-ditch agreement stands in stark contrast to the situation in Madrid, where the national government is in limbo following inconclusive December polls.

Rajoy's conservative Popular Party (PP) came top in the December 20 elections but lost its absolute majority, leaving him struggling to form a coalition government.

So far the PP's traditional Socialist rivals (PSOE), who came second in the elections, have refused to support him.

Rajoy said he would have the strength and determination "to continue to defend the unity of Spain."