Hard against hard in the battle for Catalonia
Spain‘s Government will start the process of depriving Catalonia of self-government this weekend after regional leaders once again shied away from Madrid’s ultimatum.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has convened a government meeting on Saturday to initiate the process that repeals Catalonia’s independence, according to a statement from Madrid on Thursday.
The announcement arrived minutes after it became apparent that the Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont would not comply with the government’s requirement to shed Catalan independence plans.
When the deadline expired at 10 am, a message was sent that Puigdemont still wants dialogue and that if the Spanish Government refuses to negotiate, regional authorities can declare independence from Spain.
Letter to Rajoy
In a letter to Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Puigdemont argues that he wants dialogue with Madrid.
– If the Government insists on rejecting dialogue and proceeding with oppression, the Catalonia Parliament will continue, if it considers it appropriate, to vote on a formal declaration of independence, he writes.
The letter means that Puigdemont for the second time in a week refuses to yield after a ultimatum from Madrid.
During Saturday’s meeting it is planned that the Government will take action in line with Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The article allows the Government to lift the regional self-government under exceptional circumstances.
The case will then be forwarded to the upper house of the Spanish National Assembly, the Senate, so that “the general interests of all Spaniards will be protected.”
Article 155 has never been used after the democracy was reintroduced in Spain in the wake of the Franco dictatorship four decades ago.
Prime Minister Rajoy’s conservative party has a majority in the Senate, so it will not help in getting the support of the elected representatives. On Thursday, however, the party held a meeting with the Socialist Opposition Party to gather support for the further process.
The core of the conflict is a referendum on independence that the Catalan regional authorities conducted on October 1, which was declared by the Spanish central authorities and the Spanish Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.
43 percent of Catalan voters participated in the poll, which ended with an overwhelming majority for independence.
Uncertain separatist support
However, the vote was boycotted by many opposed to independence and it is unclear how much support the separatists have after the conflict with Madrid has been sharply increased in recent weeks.
Polls before the referendum showed that a majority of the Catalans were against detachment. However, in recent weeks, many have reacted strongly to the government’s handling of the crisis, especially on the Election Day when more than eight hundred people were injured when Spanish police actioned against several polling stations.
Most suffered only minor injuries. At the same time, the Spanish authorities claimed that hundreds of police officers also were injured in the clashes.
The Spanish Government has also suggested that Catalonia announces new elections, but the Catalan authorities have rejected this.
Facts about Catalonia
- Region with about 7.5 million inhabitants and a high degree of autonomy northeast in Spain. Barcelona is the regional capital.
- Catalonia is Spain’s richest region and accounts for 19 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product. Dubbed ‘the Factory of Spain’.
- On Sunday, October 1, the Catalan authorities organized a referendum on independence.
- Spanish police used brute force to stop the referendum by acting against voting stations and voters.
- More than 90 percent voted for independence, but the attendance was low. Only 43 percent of the Catalans used their right to vote.
- Sunday, October 8, 350,000 people demonstrated in Barcelona for a united Spain.
- Several companies, including the major banks Banco Sabadell and CaixaBank, have decided to move their headquarters to other locations in Spain as a result of the political turmoil.
- Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont was expected to proclaim independence on October 10th. Instead, he chose to postpone the formal declaration and request negotiations with Madrid, while signing a symbolic declaration.
- Madrid then asked Puigdemont to clarify whether Catalonia has declared independently or not, which he would not do.
- The Spanish Government demanded that he clearly distance himself from the independence plans by Thursday 10 October at 10, but Puigdemont refused to bend and instead asked for dialogue.
- Saturday, October 21, the government will start the process that will lead to Catalonia’s partial self-government to be suspended.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today