Posts Tagged ‘Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’

Catalonia on knife-edge as pivotal elections loom

December 17, 2017

 

Ines Arrimadas, center-right party Ciudadanos (Citizens) candidate for the upcoming Catalan regional election, left, leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, center, and Jose Manuel Villegas attend a campaign meeting in L’Hospitalet del Llobregat on Sunday. (AFP)

BARCELONA: Catalonia is in the final stretch before pivotal elections Thursday that could determine the course of a secession crisis that has thrown Spain into turmoil and rattled the European Union.

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It is a campaign where the star candidates are in exile or in jail and where pro- and anti-independence parties for the Dec. 21 polls are still neck-and-neck.
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The upcoming vote has also been closely scrutinized in neighboring countries and the EU as a whole, with the bloc still reeling from Britain’s shock decision to leave.
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“We have never seen so much interest from Spain or from the world in elections of a regional nature,” Narciso Michavila, head of the GAD3 polling firm, told the FAES think tank Friday.
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In the polls Catalans will elect 135 lawmakers in the regional parliament, which has been dominated by pro-independence parties since 2015.
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All eyes are on whether the three separatist parties will maintain their absolute majority, and if they do, whether they will make another bid to break from Spain after their first attempt failed.
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The Catalan Parliament voted to declare unilateral independence on Oct. 27. But it was short-lived as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sacked the regional government, dissolved the assembly and called snap elections to try and nip separatism in the bud.
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Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont promptly fled to Belgium knowing he would likely be charged for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, while his deputy Oriol Junqueras remained in Spain, only to be jailed pending an investigation into the same charges.
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As such, their campaigning has been surreal.
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At the head of a list called Together for Catalonia, Puigdemont has campaigned from afar, using video appearances and social media.
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Some 45,000 supporters even traveled to Belgium to see him on Dec. 7.
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He claims the elections are the “second round” of an independence referendum held on Oct. 1 despite a court ban, in which Catalan leaders said 90 percent voted to break from Spain, although only 43 percent turned out in a vote marred by police brutality.
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Junqueras, meanwhile, is behind bars but remains the chief candidate for his Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) party, which is favorite in many opinion polls.
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The separatists’ campaign is centered on denouncing alleged rights violations and “repression” by the central government, but it is unclear what stance they will take if they win.
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Some want to engineer another breakaway from Spain, while others say Catalonia is not ready and needs more time.
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For their part, the parties that back staying with Spain accuse the separatists of damaging Catalonia, one of the country’s economic powerhouses.
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“The harm has been done and it was very big,” Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said last week, pointing to a drop in tourism.
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Ines Arrimadas, the head of center-right, anti-independence party Ciudadanos in Catalonia, has promised to bring Catalans back together by focusing on crucial issues such as unemployment, investment and tourism.
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It is an argument that has drawn support from prominent European figures such as former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
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Speaking at a campaign meeting Saturday alongside Arrimadas, he insisted “the future of Europe is at stake.”
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“If Spain were to break up… then the future of Europe would collapse,” he said.
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Opinion polls show ERC and Ciudadanos neck-and-neck as favorites to win the most seats.
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Voters are highly mobilized, and a record turnout is expected.
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But neither separatist nor pro-unity parties are predicted to get a decisive majority in parliament, which could lead to lengthy negotiations to form a regional government.
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“Forming a government will be very complex, even if the pro-independence bloc wins the election,” said political analyst Pablo Simon.
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Unlike elections in 2015 when they joined forces, ERC and Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party are running on separate tickets as rifts have emerged between them.
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But opinion polls still suggest the most likely scenario is for a separatist coalition to remain in power in Catalonia, even if weakened.
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And the elections could even lead to a surreal situation where an exiled or jailed Catalan leader is sworn in.

 

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Sacked Catalan leaders get pride of place in electoral lists

November 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Carles Puigdemont (right) and Oriol Junqueras during a session of the Catalan parliament on October 26, 2017

MADRID (AFP) – 

Jailed and exiled figures from Catalonia’s separatist movement feature prominently in party lists unveiled by the region’s pro-independence factions, ahead of elections called for December 21.

Of the 14 members of the Catalan government who were dismissed by the central government in October, 12 are on the two main separatist lists, the “Together for Catalonia” group of sacked president Carles Puigdemont and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), led by his vice president Oriol Junqueras.

Seven of the former officials, including Junqueras, are currently jailed pending an investigation into charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, while Puigdemont and four others are in Belgium fighting an extradition request filed by Spain.

Prosecutors in Brussels asked a judge Friday to extradite Puigdemont and the others, and a new hearing has been set for December 4.

But a final decision could still be months away, as both sides are expected to appeal if the judge rules against them, which means Puigdemont might be out of the country when the Catalonia vote is held.

Junqueras and the others being held may be released before the election.

Puigdemont presented on Twitter the lists backed by his conservative PDeCAT party, saying the candidates supported “independence, the republic and freedom”, as well as the restitution of the regional government and “a return of political prisoners and exiles”.

He had hoped to form a united separatist front for the new elections, as was the case in the region’s last elections in 2015, when the pro-independence camp secured a majority of 72 seats in the 135-seat parliament.

But the ERC rejected a joint ticket, and opinion polls suggest that while it is leading in the current campaign, which officially opens on December 5, the independence coalition as a whole could lose its absolute majority.

The polls indicate a tight race against the “Constitutionalist” bloc which favours Spanish unity, which includes Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP), the centrist Ciudadanos and Catalonia’s Socialist party.

Madrid has imposed direct rule on the once semi-autonomous region since the independence declaration made after a banned referendum on October 1, and called the new elections in a bid to “restore normality”.

Regional authorities said 90 percent chose to split from Spain, though less than half of eligible voters turned out in a region deeply divided on independence.

Ousted Catalan leader unlikely to return to Spain to testify

November 1, 2017

By Paul Day

Reuters

MADRID (Reuters) – A lawyer for dismissed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is due to appear in a Spanish court this week to answer charges relating to Catalonia’s push for independence, said he was not expected to return to Spain soon.

Image result for Carles Puigdemont, photos

Sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont 

If Puigdemont fails to appear before the court, an arrest warrant could be issued that would in turn prevent him from standing in the snap regional election called by the Spanish government for Dec. 21.

Puigdemont and his government were sacked on Friday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hours after passing a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain through the regional parliament, a vote boycotted by the opposition and considered illegal by Spanish courts.

On Monday, Spain’s state prosecutor accused Puigdemont of rebellion and sedition for organizing an independence referendum held on Oct. 1 in defiance of the Madrid government.

Puigdemont traveled to Belgium at the weekend with other members of the dismissed Catalan administration and hired a lawyer. Although he appeared at a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday, his plans and next movements were unclear.

“He has not told me but as the situation now stands, I don’t see him going back to Spain in the coming weeks,” Puigdemont’s lawyer Paul Bekaert told Belgian state broadcaster VTM late on Tuesday.

Spain’s High Court has summoned Puigdemont and 13 other former members of the Catalan government to testify in Madrid on Thursday and Friday on charges of rebellion, sedition and breach of trust. A judge will then decide whether those called to testify should go to jail pending an investigation that could take up to several years and a potential trial.

Three former Catalan government advisors returned to Spain from Belgium late on Tuesday and were greeted at Barcelona’s international airport by crowds chanting “off to prison”.

Puigdemont and three others were not among those returning to Spain. He said on Tuesday he would only go back to Spain when given unspecified “guarantees” by the Spanish government.

Prosecutors have asked the courts to order the Catalan secessionist leaders to deposit 6.2 million euros to cover potential liabilities. However, if Puigdemont and his associates do not turn up this could change and, if considered a flight risk, they could be jailed pending trial.

Attention in the crisis over Catalonia is now turning to the December election, called by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy when Madrid took over control of the autonomous region.

Puigdemont said in Brussels on Tuesday he accepted the election and the Madrid government has said he is welcome to stand, even though the legal issue could prevent that.

Wednesday is a national holiday in Spain and government offices are closed, giving a brief respite in the crisis after a tumultuous month.

Reporting by Paul Day in Madrid and Foon Yun Chee in Brussels, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Janet Lawrence

 

Pro-unity march in heart of ‘independent’ Catalonia

October 29, 2017

AFP

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© AFP / by Daniel Bosque with Mariette le Roux in Madrid | Bikers joined a pro-unity protest in Barcelona, waving Spanish flags

BARCELONA (AFP) – Pro-unity protesters gathered for a rally in Catalonia’s capital Barcelona on Sunday, two days after regional lawmakers voted to break away from Spain, plunging the country into an unprecedented political crisis.

As protesters gathered for the march, the deputy president of the region’s now-deposed government lashed out against Madrid over what he called a “coup d’etat”.

“The president of the country is and will remain Carles Puigdemont,” his deputy Oriol Junqueras wrote in Catalan newspaper El Punt Avui.

Junqueras used the word “country” to refer to Catalonia, whose lawmakers pushed Spain into uncharted waters Friday with a vote to declare the region independent.

“We cannot recognise the coup d’etat against Catalonia, nor any of the anti-democratic decisions that the PP (Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party) is adopting by remote control from Madrid,” Junqueras wrote.

He signed the article as the “vice president of the government of Catalonia”.

– ‘Viva Espana!’ –

The Catalan crisis was triggered by a banned independence referendum on October 1 that was shunned by many, and marred by police violence.

Then on Friday, Catalan lawmakers passed a motion, by 70 votes out of 135 in the secessionist-majority regional parliament, to declare the region of 7.5 million people independent from Spain.

Rajoy responded by deposing the regional government, dissolving its parliament, and calling December 21 elections to replace them.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, was temporarily put in charge of administering the rebel region.

As prosecutors prepared to file charges of rebellion against Puigdemont next week, he too was defiant on Saturday, calling for “democratic opposition” to Madrid’s power grab.

Puigdemont accused the central government of trampling on the will of independence-seeking Catalans with the first curtailment of regional autonomy since Francisco Franco’s brutal 1939-75 dictatorship.

Barcelona readied for Sunday’s anti-independence march under the slogan: “Catalonia is all of us!”

Television footage showed people streaming out of a metro station near the march, draped in Spanish flags.

The rally is due to kick off at noon near where tens of thousands of people celebrated the new “republic” with song, wine and fireworks just two days earlier.

“Viva Espana!” cried Sunday’s protesters, whose chant means “long live Spain”.

Participants at the rally will include representatives of three Catalan opposition parties — including Rajoy’s conservative PP, in what may amount to the start of an election campaign.

An opinion poll published in centre-right newspaper El Mundo Sunday said separatist parties would lose their majority in Catalonia’s regional parliament if elections were held today.

– Divided region –

Later on Sunday, Real Madrid football club will face Girona, Puigdemont’s favourite team, in the Catalan side’s home stadium, in a game that may see some of Spain’s divisions reflected in the stands.

It is the first visit by Real Madrid, Rajoy’s favourite team, to Catalonia since the referendum.

Roughly the size of Belgium, Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain’s population and attracts more tourists than anywhere else in the country.

It produces about a fifth of Spain’s economic output — equivalent to that of Portugal.

Before the upheaval, Catalonia enjoyed considerable autonomy, with control over education, healthcare and policing.

But while fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy, Catalans are divided on independence, according to polls.

Rajoy drew sweeping powers, approved by the senate, under a never-before-used constitutional article designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions.

He used these to axe Puigdemont, his deputy, regional ministers, heads of departments, and the chief of police in a move that angered some Catalans.

Far-left supporters of Puigdemont have threatened “mass civil disobedience” if Rajoy carries out the power grab, but have yet to announce any plans.

In Madrid, several thousand people gathered on the central Plaza Colon Saturday, waving the Spanish flag, and calling for Puigdemont to be jailed.

Spain enjoys the backing of the United States and allies in a secession-wary European Union still reeling from Britain’s decision to leave its fold.

Many fear the economic impact as the standoff drags on, with some 1,700 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia so far.

burs-mlr/ds/ser

by Daniel Bosque with Mariette le Roux in Madrid

Thousands rally in Madrid, urge jailing of deposed Catalan leader — Chanting “Prison for Puigdemont” — “Y viva Espana”

October 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Marianne BARRIAUX | Spain is undergoing its worst constitutional crisis since its return to democracy in the 1970s

MADRID (AFP) – “Prison for Puigdemont,” shouted thousands of people in central Madrid, gathered under a giant Spanish flag Saturday in anger at Catalonia’s unilateral declaration of independence under secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont.

As music blared from giant speakers — from British band Coldplay to Spanish singer Manolo Escobar’s “Y viva Espana” (“And long live Spain” in Spanish) — pro-unity protesters banded together on the square.

Unhappy with Catalonia’s secession bid, many also directed anger at Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whom they accuse of having been too soft on the region’s separatist leaders.

“It is a disgrace what happened in Catalonia, and it’s a disgrace what happened after,” said Carlos Fernandez, a 41-year-old mining engineer.

On Friday, the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence.

Rajoy replied by axing Puigdemont and his executive, dissolving parliament, and calling snap December 21 regional elections to quash what he termed an “escalation of disobedience.”

“Nothing is going to change in two months,” said Fernandez of Rajoy’s intervention, “it’s just prolonging the problem.”

Sitting on a concrete ledge clutching a large red and yellow national flag, he said he was disappointed at the low pro-unity turnout.

“It’s because of what the government said yesterday, many people think that it’s all solved,” he said.

Speeches began at midday.

“Today, we have all come to demonstrate our unity, to proclaim that we will get Catalonia back,” one presenter told the crowd.

To cheers and shouts of “prison for Puigdemont,” she added: “We won’t stop until we see them in jail.”

Spanish prosecutors have announced they will next week file charges of “rebellion” against Puigdemont — a crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Near the square, a large banner proclaiming: “Spain doesn’t surrender” hung from a building occupied by the far-right, xenophobic group Hogar Social.

People leant out of windows and cheered as dozens of protesters holding flags of the Spanish Legion, an army unit, and the small, far-right party National Democracy marched up, flanked by police.

Back on the square, Jorge Marin, a 38-year-old engineer, said: “In the end, this is going to come to nothing.”

“The Catalans aren’t serious, and we’re not serious, because they’re not really getting independence, and we’re not going to put them in prison for what they’re doing.”

by Marianne BARRIAUX
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Commentary
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There is no alternative but for Catalonia to be ruled by Madrid, and declaring independence is political folly
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Published: 16:35 October 28, 2017Gulf News

Spain has entered unchartered political waters after the restive region of Catalonia declared independence prior to the central government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, utilising powers granted to it under Article 155 of the nation’s Constitution, suspended the Catalan regional assembly. On October 1, the separatists held an illegal referendum on independence that was backed by more than 90 per cent of the 2.24 million in the region who cast their votes.

The referendum process itself was deeply flawed, having been declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court and the Catalan High Court before voting day, and the Rajoy government used every avenue available to disrupt the vote. Undeterred by the prospect of fines and imprisonment, voters overwhelmingly opted for declaring the region around Spain’s second-largest city as independent. Over the past month, and against a backdrop of deteriorating relationships between the Madrid and Catalan governments, the separatists held back declaring independence until Friday afternoon, and then voted 70 to 10 in favour of the declaration when it became clear that the Madrid government, with the backing of both houses and the tacit support of King Felipe VI, was going to suspend the Catalan regional assembly and rule it from the capital.

Despite having held two referendums on independence over the past three years, and with large majorities in favour on both occasions, the reality is that the separatists possess mandates that are illegal and deeply flawed. Prior to the most recent illegal referendum, there was no campaign for staying in Spain, and the vote was ignored or boycotted by those against the proposed split.

Spain is made up of 17 different regions, each with a distinctive heritage and linguistic nuances, and there is no process, legal or otherwise, for any of those regions to go their own way. Pursuing independence or using the results of these plebiscites to break up Spain is not realistic and simply smacks of political opportunism. Spain is not divisible, and while the Catalonians might bask in their declaration, it is not recognised, has no legitimacy, and is simply a desperate move by those who have a political agenda that suits their own ends.

These are indeed worrying times, but there is a way forward. Both sides need to work out a political process that may result in greater powers for the region — but only within Spain. And fresh regional elections need to be held in the spring, with every voter casting ballots to ensure a new Catalan assembly is fully representative of all Spaniards.

http://gulfnews.com/opinion/editorials/spain-cannot-be-sliced-apart-1.2114550

Catalonia declares independence as Spain prepares to impose direct rule

October 27, 2017

Spain’s leader Mariano Rajoy immediately tweets to say the rule of law will be restored

By Jon Sharman

The Independent

Catalonia declared independence from Spain less than an hour before a vote in the country’s Senate gave Madrid the power to seize the region’s autonomous powers.

The vote in the regional parliament followed a tense week of last-ditch negotiations between Madrid and Barecelona. Seventy of 135 Catalan deputies voted for independence, with 10 opposed and two blank ballot slips.

Opposition lawmakers had walked out of the chamber ahead of Friday’s vote in protest.

Rounds of applause broke out in the chamber as members of the parliament hugged and shook hands.

Thousands of people watched the voting process and the counting live on big screens outside Catalonia’s parliament in Barcelona, and cheered and danced after the motion was passed.

The motion calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia’s new top laws and opening negotiations “on equal footing” with Spanish authorities to establish co-operation.

Pido tranquilidad a todos los españoles. El Estado de Derecho restaurará la legalidad en Cataluña. MR

On Thursday Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had ruled out calling a snap election, thought to have been a potential way of defusing tension with the central government.

Mr Puigdemont said he had not received sufficient guarantees that Madrid would hold off on its attempts to take control of the region.

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, tweeted immediately after the vote calling for calm. He said the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia.

Spain’s senate voted on Friday, shortly after the Catalan independence vote, to trigger Article 155 of the constitution and allow the imposition of direct rule.

The vote will give Madrid the authority to govern Catalonia is the first direct intervention by central authorities in the affairs of one of the country’s 17 autonomous areas.

Mr Rajoy will have the power to sack Mr Puigdemont and his cabinet among other measures. Mr Rajoy is understood to be planning immediately to enact the Article 155 provisions during an urgent meeting on Friday afternoon.

The crisis stems from an independence referendum, held earlier this month, that Spanish judges had declared unconstitutional.

Before it went ahead Madrid authorities confiscated ballot papers and closed polling stations, with clashes erupting in the streets.

An overwhelming majority of those who did vote favoured secession, but turnout was low and there is a substantial section of the Catalan population that wants to remain a part of Spain.

Following Friday’s independence vote, European Council president Donald Tusk said “nothing changes” for the EU, adding it would continue only to deal with the Madrid government.

Mr Tusk urged Spain to favour “force of argument, not argument of force” in addressing the independence declaration.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/catalonia-independence-latest-spain-direct-rule-catalan-parliament-president-a8023221.html

Related:

Spanish PM Rajoy asks Senate for authority to depose Catalonian leader Puigdemont

October 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP file picture | Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (right) asked senators to depose Catalonia’s regional President Carles Puigdemont on October 27.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-27

Spain’s premier urged senators Friday to adopt radical measures to impose direct rule on rebel Catalonia and depose its president in a bid to halt the region’s independence bid.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy asked parliament’s upper house, where his party holds a majority, to “proceed to the dismissal of the president of the Catalan government, his vice-president and all regional ministers.”

The senate is scheduled to vote later Friday on measures to depose Catalonia‘s secessionist government before the week is out, after the region held an unlawful independence referendum on October 1.

Senators gave Rajoy a standing ovation.

Many expect the region’s separatist leaders to push back with an independence declaration.

The Catalan parliament, where pro-secession parties hold sway, will meet in Barcelona where a proposal to vote on splitting from Spain could work its way onto the floor.

>>Article 155: Spain’s ‘nuclear option’ to stop Catalan independence

On Thursday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont opted not to call elections for a new regional parliament — thought to be the only way to stave off Madrid’s imminent power grab.

Warning that seizure of control by the central government would escalate the crisis, he passed the buck to the regional parliament “to determine the consequences” of the threatened takeover — thus leaving the door open for a possible independence push.

‘MIXED REACTIONS IN BARCELONA’, SAYS FRANCE 24’S AURORE DUPUIS

Spain and Catalonia have been locked in a constitutional standoff since a “Yes” vote in the unregulated plebiscite which secessionist leaders hold up as a popular mandate for independence for the region of 7.5 million people.

Only about 43 percent of voters turned out, however, with many anti-secessionists staying away and others prevented from casting their ballot by Spanish police in a crackdown that turned violent.

>>Video: A Tango between Barcelona and Madrid

Based on the vote, Puigdemont threatened a declaration of independence, which Rajoy described Friday as “a challenge of unprecedented dimensions.”

Madrid has turned to Article 155 of the constitution — a never-before-used provision designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 regions, which enjoy varying levels of autonomy.

Measures drawn up under the article are set to enter into force on Saturday, and will see the central government seek to temporarily take over Catalonia’s civil service, police, purse, and public broadcaster.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria insisted Thursday the government was “fulfilling a legal obligation, a democratic obligation and a political obligation,” by its actions.

But the move is likely to anger Catalans, fiercely protective of their autonomy, even if divided on independence.

Independence supporters are ready to fight back.

Albert Botran, a regional lawmaker for the far-left CUP party that backs Puigdemont and wants to split from Spain, vowed Friday to “make it difficult for the new, illegitimate government to get away with it.”

“The first action will be resistance,” he told Catalonia Radio.

‘Impatient’ to leave

Catalonia’s parliament met to discuss the issue late Thursday, where opposition lawmakers pleaded with Puigdemont to find a solution to the standoff closely watched by a European Union nervous wary of nationalist and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain’s dramatic decision to leave the bloc.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” Ines Arrimadas, regional leader of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party, appealed.

Catalans are fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy — restored after the 1939-75 dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Fears for Catalonia’s economy have increased as uncertainty persists over the independence drive, with some 1,600 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of the region in recent weeks.

Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain’s population and a fifth of its economic output.

Related:

Spain on tenterhooks ahead of Catalan crisis sessions — Regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence

October 27, 2017

The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Two crucial meetings were to take place Friday in Spain that could decide the short-term future of a country undergoing its worst political crisis in decades.

Catalonia’s parliament will resume debating its response to the Spanish government’s plans to strip away its regional powers to halt it pushing toward independence. But in Madrid, Spain’s Senate was meeting to approve the government’s plans and set the intervention in motion under constitutional powers.

The government’s proposals include removing the Catalan government’s regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region’s parliament.

The Catalan government  rejects the move and there is speculation the regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence from Spain later Friday.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont faces what could be his last day in power by joining lawmakers to decide whether to defy Spanish laws with the declaration.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to address the Senate meeting and defend his demand for the extraordinary powers.

It will be the first time in four decades of democratic rule that the Madrid-based national government would directly run the affairs of one of the 17 semi-autonomous regions, a move that will likely fan the flames of the Catalan revolt.

Rajoy says the measures are aimed at restoring order and has promised to call a new regional election once that is achieved.

Puigdemont scrapped hopes of a possible end to the political deadlock on Thursday when he opted not to call an early election himself and halt the drift toward independence.

The parliamentary sessions in Madrid and Barcelona are likely to last several hours before each votes on their resolutions.

Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party has an absolute majority in the Senate, thus guaranteeing the approval of his proposals. It will then be up to government to decide which and when to implement.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product. Polls show its 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence.

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BBC News

Catalan crisis: Spain Senate to vote on emergency powers

Students with Catalan flags chanted “independence”.

The Spanish Senate is due to discuss a plan by the Madrid government to take over some of Catalonia’s autonomous powers, amid an escalating crisis over the region’s push for independence.

Earlier this month Catalonia held a disputed referendum on the issue.

The Senate is expected to pass the emergency measures, which include sacking the Catalan president.

Meanwhile the regional parliament has been debating a possible declaration of independence.

The debate began on Thursday, after Catalan President Carles Puigdemont failed to reveal a favoured course of action, and called on MPs to decide on a response.

Mr Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence following the 1 October vote, but immediately halted implementation and called for negotiations between Catalonia and the Spanish government.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled it was illegal.

Carles Puigdemont in parliament, 26 October
Carles Puigdemont (right) has been under pressure not to call a snap election. Reuters photo

How did Thursday’s debate unfold?

During Thursday’s Catalan parliamentary session, a government spokesman said a proposal to implement the results of a referendum on independence would be submitted to lawmakers on Friday.

Hard-line separatists continued their calls for an official declaration of independence.

“We will continue on the path to a Catalan republic,” an MP for the far-left CUP, which provides key support for the pro-independence governing coalition, said.

A Catalan government representative and a Spanish government minister fail to see eye to eye in a BBC interview

But Ines Arrimadas, leader of the anti-independence Citizens’s Party, accused Mr Puigdemont of missing countless opportunities to resolve the crisis through negotiation.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” she said.

What will happen in the Spanish Senate on Friday?

The Senate is due to hold a vote on the government’s plan to trigger Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which empowers the government to take “all measures necessary to compel” a region in case of a crisis.

The article has never been used before.

Under the proposals announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy this week, Mr Puigdemont would be removed and new regional elections held. Madrid would take control of Catalonia’s finances, police and public media.

Mr Rajoy’s centre-right government has a majority in the Senate. The plan has also been approved by opposition parties.


Adding fuel to the fire

By Katya Adler, Europe Editor, BBC News in Barcelona

Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution has never been used before in democratic Spain. And for good reason.

Spaniards call it their government’s “nuclear option”.

But on Friday the Spanish Senate is expected to vote in favour of triggering Article 155 and stripping the region of Catalonia of its autonomous powers.

The move is the only way, the Spanish government insists, to calm the Catalan crisis.

But Catalan leaders say such a move will simply add fuel to the fire – making it more likely that Friday will be the day that they officially declare an independent Catalan republic.

Friday’s front page headline of Spain’s Barcelona-based newspaper El Periodico tells the story. It reads: “Unilateral Declaration of Independence and Goodbye.”


More on the Catalan crisis

Catalonia in numbers

  • 16% of Spain’s population live in Catalonia, and it produces:
  • 25.6% of Spain’s exports
  • 19% of Spain’s GDP
  • 20.7% of foreign investment
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Related image

Rift appears in Catalan govt as Madrid power takeover begins

October 25, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Protesters wave Catalan flags during a pro-independence rally in Barcelona, on October 21, 2017

BARCELONA (AFP) – Several members of Catalonia’s separatist government told the region’s leader they want elections to avoid a power takeover by Madrid, a source close to him said Wednesday, as a rift appeared in the regional executive.

Many believe calling early elections would be an alternative to the region declaring independence, and thus a solution out of Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

The crisis was sparked by a divisive independence referendum that went ahead on October 1 despite a court ban.

Several regional government members expressed their support for elections in a meeting on Tuesday with regional president Carles Puigdemont, said the source, who refused to be named.

Spain has vowed to start taking over Catalonia’s political power and finances in the coming days if it does not stop its independence drive.

Puigdemont’s ruling coalition is hugely disparate, with the far-left CUP and left-wing ERC parties that prop up his conservative PDeCAT grouping gunning for him to declare independence.

According to Catalan daily La Vanguardia, the meeting yielded “intense debate” and went on well into the night, with no decision reached.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stressed that constitutional measures to take over Catalonia’s powers were “the only possible response” to Puigdemont’s independence push.

“I am fulfilling my obligation by implementing (constitutional article) 155, faced with contempt for our laws, the constitution, Catalonia’s status and contempt for millions of Catalan citizens who see that their government has liquidated the law,” he told parliament.

But implementing article 155 could spark unrest in the northeastern region which, though divided on independence, is fiercely protective of its language and autonomy.

On Wednesday, independence supporters were preparing to take to the streets again. Teachers were planning a rally in Barcelona, the Catalan capital, and grassroots organisations dubbed “committees to defend the referendum” were also due to protest.

Related:

Catalonia weighs options as Spain ups the stakes

October 22, 2017

Though Catalans are deeply split on whether to break away from Spain, autonomy remains a sensitive issue in the northeastern region of 7.5 million people

AFP

October 22, 2017

AUTONOMY. People shout slogans as they wave Catalan pro-independence 'Estelada' flags during a protest in Barcelona on October 2, 2017. Photo by Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

AUTONOMY. People shout slogans as they wave Catalan pro-independence ‘Estelada’ flags during a protest in Barcelona on October 2, 2017. Photo by Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

BARCELONA, Spain – Catalonia’s separatists were planning their response Sunday, October 22, after Spain took drastic steps to stop the region from breaking away by dissolving its separatist government and forcing new elections.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his regional executive, who sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades by holding a banned independence referendum on October 1, will be stripped of their jobs and their ministries taken over under measures announced Saturday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

“Yesterday there was a fully-fledged coup against Catalan institutions,” said Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull.

“What happens now, with everyone in agreement and unity, is that we will announce what we will do and how,” he told Catalunya Radio.

Rajoy has taken Spain into uncharted legal waters by moving to wrest back powers from the semi-autonomous region, which could see Madrid take control of the Catalan police force and replace its public media chiefs.

The move sparked outrage among separatists, with nearly half a million taking to the streets of regional capital Barcelona and Puigdemont declaring Rajoy guilty of “the worst attack on institutions and Catalan people” since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Among other repressive measures, Franco – who ruled from 1939 until 1975 – took Catalonia’s powers away and banned the official use of the Catalan language.

Though Catalans are deeply split on whether to break away from Spain, autonomy remains a sensitive issue in the northeastern region of 7.5 million people, which fiercely defends its language and culture and has previously enjoyed control over its policing, education and healthcare.

Rajoy said he had no choice but to force Puigdemont out as he refuses to drop his threat to declare independence after a referendum that had been declared unconstitutional.

Responding to accusations of a “coup”, Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis retorted: “If there is a coup d’etat, it is one that has been followed by Mr. Puigdemont and his government.”

He told BBC television: “What we are doing is following strictly the provisions of our constitution.”

Spain’s Senate is set to approve the measures by the end of next week. Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP) holds a majority in the upper house, while other major parties also back his efforts to prevent a break-up of the nation.

What now?

In a crisis that has sent jitters through one of Spain’s most important regional economies and rattled the stock markets, Rajoy has ordered fresh elections to be called within 6 months of the Senate hearing, which would see polls held by mid-June at the latest.

Separatist parties of all political stripes, from Puigdemont’s conservatives to the far-left, have dominated the Catalan parliament since the last elections in 2015, holding 72 seats out of 135.

Ahead of a meeting of Catalan parties on Monday, October 23, to set a date and agenda for a crucial session of the regional parliament to debate next steps, Turull insisted on RAC1 radio that elections were “not on the table”.

Political analysts warn Rajoy faces a serious struggle to impose control over the unruly region.

Potential scenarios include Catalan civil servants and police refusing to obey orders from central authorities.

“The basic problem is that you have to govern Catalonia with the active opposition of a large part of the population,” analyst Jose Fernandez-Albertos told AFP.

Asked if Puigdemont will be arrested if he shows up for work, Dastis tried to strike a reassuring tone.

“We are not going to arrest anyone,” he told the BBC, dismissing the idea of the army having to be brought in to enforce order.

But he warned that if Puigdemont’s government keeps trying to give orders, “they will be equal to any group of rebels trying to impose their own arbitrariness on the people of Catalonia.”

Europe leaders back Madrid

National police said two young people had been charged after physically assaulting police at Saturday’s Barcelona protest, which saw some 450,000 separatists flood the streets shouting “freedom” and “independence”.

Puigdemont says 90% backed a split from Spain in the referendum, but turnout was given as 43% as many anti-independence Catalans stayed away.

Polls suggest the wealthy region is evenly split over independence, with separatists saying it pays too much into national coffers but their opponents arguing it is stronger as part of Spain.

Madrid has received vocal backing from European leaders, with EU parliament chief Antonio Tajani stressing Sunday that neighbors would refuse to recognize Catalonia if it unilaterally declared independence.

“It is not by degrading nationhood that we reinforce Europe,” he told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.