Spain suspends Catalan parliament session in attempt to block independence

PM Mariano Rajoy calls on Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to drop the pursuit of unilateral declaration

5 October 2017, 3:54pm
Spain’s constitutional court has suspended a Catalan parliament session originally planned for Monday, in an attempt to block an expected declaration of independence by the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont.

In a televised address on Wednesday evening, Puigdemont said his government was planning to take the results of Sunday’s referendum to the Catalan parliament over the next few days.

“I have to represent all of Catalonia’s citizens,” said Puigdemont, who also repeated his calls for dialogue with Madrid.

“On Sunday we had a referendum under the most difficult circumstances and set an example of who we are. Peace and accord is part of who we are. We have to apply the results of the referendum. We have to present the results of the referendum to parliament.”

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, speaking ahead of Thursday’s court decision, warned that the situation could escalate further if the Catalan government carried on the path of a unilateral declaration.

“Is there a solution? Yes, there is,” Rajoy told the Spanish news agency Efe. “And the best one would be a return to legality and the swiftest possible confirmation that there won’t be a unilateral independence declaration, because that way still greater harm could be avoided.”

Over 900 people were injured on Sunday when Spanish police attempted to half the independence vote by raiding polling stations, firing rubber bullets at protesters and beating voters.

In an interview on Thursday, Puigdemont said he had not discounted the possibility that he could be arrested, but he was not afraid.

“I’m not surprised any more about what the Spanish government is doing,” he said. “My arrest is also possible, which would be a barbaric step.”

The Catalan president also accused King Felipe of Spain, of acting as a mouthpiece for the Spanish government after the monarch accused Catalan authorities of attempting to break “the unity of Spain”. On Tuesday, the king described the regional government’s actions as “an unacceptable attempt” to take over Catalan institutions and said it had placed itself outside democracy and the law.

“The king endorses the discourse and policies of the government of Rajoy, which have been catastrophic for Catalonia and deliberately ignore the millions of Catalans who do not think like them,” said Puigdemont, disappointed by the king’s address.

Directly addressing the king, he added: “Not like this. Your decision yesterday disappointed many people in Catalonia”.

Despite the Spanish authorities’ attempts to stop the referendum, 2.26 million of Catalonia’s 5.3 million registered voters took part.

The figures suggest that the turnout was around 43%, as many Catalans who oppose independence boycotted the poll for fear of lending it legitimacy.

According to the Catalan government, 90% of participants voted for independence.

Puigdemont told the BBC on Tuesday that Catalonia would not abandon its quest for independence and warned the Spanish government that any move to stop the independence process by using article 155 of the constitution, to take control of the region could be the “ultimate mistake”.