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Catalonia Remains Defiant as Spanish Senate to Vote on Imposing Direct Rule on Region

Catalonia Remains Defiant as Spanish Senate to Vote on Imposing Direct Rule on Region

Monday, 23 October, 2017 - 10:45
Barcelona football fans make their feelings known about Catalan independence at a game on October 18, 2017. (Reuters)

Catalan lawmakers will meet later this week to address Madrid’s move to impose direct rule on the region less than a month after it voted to secede from the rest of Spain.

Last week, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government invoked special constitutional powers to fire the regional government and force a new election to counter an independence drive that has rattled the economy. A vote in the Senate to implement direct rule is due on Friday.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on Monday called the Catalan parliament to meet this week to agree on a response to Madrid, something many observers said could pave the way for a formal declaration of independence.

The assembly will meet on Thursday to agree a response to direct rule.

Catalan leaders have rejected Madrid’s move, saying the October 1 referendum gave them the mandate to claim independence from the rest of Spain.

"It's not that we will refuse (orders). It is not a personal decision. It is a seven million-person decision," Catalonia's foreign affairs chief Raul Romeva told BBC radio.

Romeva was asked whether he believed all institutions, including the police, would follow orders from Catalan institutions rather than from the Spanish government.

"And from that perspective, I have no doubt that all civil servants in Catalonia will keep following the instructions provided by the elected and legitimate institutions that we have right now in place (in Catalonia)," he said.

Civil disobedience was meanwhile backed by far-left party CUP, a key support for Catalonia's pro-independence minority government in the regional parliament, which called Madrid's actions an aggression against all Catalans."

“An aggression which will be met with massive civil disobedience," the CUP said in a statement.

Several hundred Catalan municipalities said they were against direct rule from Madrid and asked the Catalan parliament to vote on a motion rejecting it.

Several influential Catalan newspapers called on Puidgemont on Sunday to resolve the crisis by calling a snap election before direct rule becomes effective. However, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said this was not an option.

It is not clear whether a vote in the region would help resolve the crisis.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister said Puigdemont would be out of a job once direct rule was enforced and Madrid would install its own representative. The Spanish government has said it would call a regional election within six months.

"They are president of the regional government and senior figures in that government because of the constitution," said Soraya Saenz de Santamaria during a radio interview.

"They are not entrusted with that role by any divine authority," she also said.

Catalan authorities said about 90 percent of those who took part in the referendum voted for independence. But only 43 percent of the electorate and 1 in 3 Catalans participated, with most opponents of secession staying at home.

The Catalan crisis has raised fears among European countries that it could spill over to the rest of the continent.

From Scotland to Flanders and Lombardy, the 2007-09 financial crisis, unemployment and migration have allowed anti-EU and populist parties to feed off discontent with political elites and reopen regional divisions.

Two wealthy regions of northern Italy voted overwhelmingly on Sunday for greater autonomy.

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