Spaniards use national holiday to show unity amid Catalan crisis
MADRID: Spaniards began lining the streets of Madrid on Thursday and national flags hung from balconies across the capital as unionists used a holiday military parade to show unity in the face of moves by Catalonia to declare independence.
The wealthy region’s intention to break away has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981, with Madrid threatening to sack the Catalan government if it goes ahead.
On Thursday, a military parade to mark the anniversary of explorer Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas on behalf of the Spanish crown took place in a city already festooned with flags hung by Spaniards in a display of unity.
Tension remains high between the central government and Catalonia after the region’s leader signed a symbolic declaration of independence on Tuesday, citing the results of an Oct. 1 referendum which had been declared illegal by Madrid.
Catalan government chief Carles Puigdemont had stopped short of moving a motion of independence in the regional parliament, disappointing many of his own supporters.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has given Puigdemont eight days to drop his push for independence or face the suspension of its political autonomy.
If Puigdemont does not respond in time or confirms a will to secede, Rajoy can turn to article 155 of the 1978 constitution which allows him to sack the regional government.
“Ask for dialogue and they answer you by putting the 155 on the table. Understood,” Puigdemont tweeted late onWednesday.
Uncertainty remains over what article 155, which has never been invoked before, would mean in practice.