The Catalan parliament has voted to establish an independent republic in defiance of the Spanish government, which is expected to sack the region’s president and impose direct rule within the next few hours.
On Friday afternoon, Catalan MPs voted for independence by a margin of 70 votes to 10. Two ballot papers were blank.
The result was greeted with jubilation by pro-independence MPs, who applauded and began singing the Catalan anthem, ElsSegadors. Thousands of people gathered outside Catalonia’s parliament building in support of the region’s independence bid cheered and danced at the move.
But the proposal, brought by the region’s ruling Together for Yes coalition and their far-left allies the CUP party, was bitterly attacked by opposition MPs who boycotted a vote they viewed as illegal.
Dozens of members of the Catalan Socialist party (PSC) walked out of the chamber before the vote, as did MPs from the centrist Ciutadans party and the conservative People’s party. Some left Spanish and Catalan flags on their empty seats.
Opponents of independence accused the regional president, CarlesPuigdemont, and his allies of ignoring the views of the majority of Catalans who wish to remain part of Spain.
On Friday morning, as the parliament prepared to debate its response to the Madrid government’s decision to take control of the region, separatist MPs had filed a motion to hold a vote on whether to create “a Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state of democratic and social law”.
In a tweet posted shortly after the result was announced, Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said: “I appeal for all Spaniards to stay calm. The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia.”
Carlos Carrizosa of Ciutadans described Friday as “a sad day and a blow to democracy”.
Turning on the regional government and its president, he added: “You’re like gods, above the law. How can you imagine you can impose independence like this without a majority in favour … and with this simulacrum of a referendum? Puigdemont will be remembered not for ruining Catalonia but for having divided the Catalans and Spain.”
Eva Granados of the Catalan PSC asked: “Have you any idea how frightened many Catalans are?”
However, CarlesRiera of the CUP said the declaration would pave the way for independence and a transformation of the lives of working people.
“We declare the republic of Catalonia,” he said. “This is a happy day.”
The vote came hours after Rajoy asked the Spanish senate for authorisation to fire the Catalan president and his cabinet as Madrid prepares to assume control of the region to put an end to the independence crisis.
Addressing the senate on Friday morning, Rajoy said CarlesPuigdemont’s decision to flout the Spanish constitution by holding a unilateral independence referendum earlier this month had forced the central government to take the unprecedented step of imposing direct rule.
In a speech punctuated by loud applause, he requested permission to remove Puigdemont’sadministration, saying recent events in Catalonia represented “a clear violation of the laws, of democracy, of the rights of all – and that has consequences”.
The senate, in which Rajoy’s governing People’s party (PP) has a majority, is expected to approve the series of measures proposed under article 155 of the Spanish constitution later on Friday.
Rajoy said Puigdemont’s continued refusal to confirm whether or not independence had been declared was a step too far. The Catalan leader declared independence but suspended the effects for two months to allow for dialogue with Madrid.
“He was given the opportunity to clarify whether there had been a unilateral declaration of independence,” the prime minister said. “This is not a trifling matter. An answer was required and it wasn’t a difficult one: yes or no.”
He also criticised Puigdemont for turning down an invitation to explain himself before the senate, and said: “Dialogue has two enemies. The first is abusing the law, ignoring it and disobeying it. The second is when someone only wishes to listen to themselves and won’t understand or try to understand others.”
The Catalan leader dashed hopes of a possible way out of the crisis on Thursday when he refused to call a snap election, saying he could not offer fresh polls without a firm guarantee that the Spanish government would suspend its threat to impose direct rule.
“We have not received the necessary guarantees to justify holding elections,” he said in an address at the regional government palace in Barcelona. “We have tried to get them but we have not had a responsible response from the PP and they have chosen to increase the tension. I have run out of options.”
Culled from theguardian UK