Catalan independence resolution draws swift retort from Madrid

Region is taking the first steps towards seceding from Spain

The independence initiative has deeply divided the Catalan parliament, which passed a motion declaring the start of the secession process. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

The independence initiative has deeply divided the Catalan parliament, which passed a motion declaring the start of the secession process. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

 

The parliament of Catalonia has approved a resolution declaring the beginning of the region’s secession from Spain, despite staunch opposition from the central government and uncertainty over the independence movement’s leadership.

The nine-point resolution declares “the opening of the process of creation of an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic” through a “democratic disconnection” from Spain. The 72 pro-independence deputies who voted in favour of it envisage the breakaway being completed within 18 months.

“If it’s not today, it’ll be tomorrow, the time has come for us to go all out,” said Raúl Romeva, of the Junts pel Sí­ (or Together for Yes) coalition. The radical leftist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) also supported the resolution.

Tax revenue

Madrid

The approval of the document drew a swift response from Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who said he has begun proceedings to request the “immediate suspension” of the Catalan resolution by appealing to the Constitutional Court.

The independence initiative has deeply divided the Catalan parliament. A total of 63 deputies voted against it, including the Popular Party (PP), which governs Spain, the Socialist Party, the centrist Ciudadanos and Catalunya Sí­ que es Pot (Catalonia Yes We Can), a coalition which includes the anti-austerity Podemos.

PP deputies held up Spanish and Catalan flags inside the debating chamber during the vote to express their support for territorial unity. Meanwhile, outside the parliament building, about 200 pro-independence demonstrators waved the estelada, the secessionist flag and sang the region’s anthem, Els Segadors.

“The government will not allow this to continue,” Mr Rajoy said. “We have decided to use all the democratic means to defend democracy. We will use only the rule of law, but the full rule of law.”

As soon as the government’s appeal is registered, almost certainly this week, Spanish law states that the separatist resolution will be suspended until the Constitutional Court rules on it.

However, the Catalan parliament is not expected to heed the court. The statement of intent approved yesterday declares that the independence process “will not be subordinate to the decisions of the Spanish state, in particular the Constitutional Court,” suggesting that the stand-off between Madrid and Catalonia will continue.

Plebiscite

Both parties believe this gives them the mandate to instigate a unilateral break from Spain even though they won only 48 percent of the popular vote.

However, tensions between Junts pel Sí­ and CUP have threatened to derail the initiative.

Yesterday, the debate began in the Catalan parliament to decide if the current regional premier and Junts pel Sí­ candidate, Artur Mas, should continue in the post, with a vote due to take place today. While CUP shares Mas’s vision of an independent Catalonia, it opposes his leadership due to spending cuts he has introduced and corruption scandals plaguing many of his political allies.

“Without investiture [of a premier] there is no government and without a government the independence process might run aground,” Mr Mas warned yesterday, as he appealed for CUP’s support.

During his address, Mr Mas underlined the need to push ahead with the creation of independent Catalan institutions, such as a central bank and a tax office.

However, CUP spokesman Albert Botran later told reporters that “the process can move ahead whoever is leading it”.

If neither Mr Mas nor any other candidate is able to gain enough votes to be invested as Catalan premier, a new regional election will be held in the spring.