Spain suspends Catalan parliament session in attempt to block independence
A demonstration in Barcelona against Catalonia’s independence referendum. Photograph taken from Reuters.
Spain’s constitutional court has suspended a Catalan parliament session planned for Monday in an attempt to block an expected declaration of independence by the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont.
Upholding a challenge by Catalonia’s Socialist party, which opposes secession from Spain, the court ruled that allowing the regional parliament to meet and declare independence would violate the rights of the party’s MPs.
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 and mediation with Madrid. “On Sunday we had a referendum under the most difficult circumstances and set and 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.”
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s court decision, the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, 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.”
More than 900 people were injured on Sunday after Spanish police attempted to halt the independence referendum by raiding polling stations, beating voters and firing rubber bullets at crowds. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild on Thursday, Puigdemont said he had not discounted the possibility that he could be arrested, but said 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”. In a rare and strongly worded television address 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.
Puigdemont on Wednesday said he was disappointed by the king’s intervention. “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,” he said.
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, which the government and the country’s constitutional court had declared illegal, 2.26 million of Catalonia’s 5.3 million registered voters took part.
The figures suggest that the turnout was about 43%, as many Catalans who oppose independence boycotted the poll for fear of lending it legitimacy.
According to the Catalan government, 90% of the 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”.