Tampa Bay Times
Spain thwarts secession move
The government cracks down after Catalonia declares independence.
BARCELONA, Spain — In one of the most momentous days in recent Spanish history, Spain fired Catalonia’s regional government and dissolved its parliament Friday after a defiant Catalan declaration of independence that flouted the country’s constitution.
Lawmakers in the Catalan parliament voted to unilaterally declare independence, prompting the swift crackdown by the Spanish government, which also called an early election in the region.
Hours after Catalonia’s secession move, the Spanish Senate granted the government special constitutional powers to stop the wealthy region’s move toward independence.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government then called an urgent Cabinet meeting late Friday, after which Rajoy emerged to announce the emergency measures, including regional elections called for Dec. 21.
In Barcelona, Catalonia’s regional capital, Rajoy’s announcement in a televised address was greeted with jeers and whistles of disapproval from crowds who had gathered at the gates of the government palace to celebrate their parliament’s moves toward independence.
“It’s not about suspending or meddling in the self-government (of Catalonia), but to return it to normality and legality as soon as possible,” Rajoy said.
The government and Spain’s Constitutional Court have both said the secession bid was illegal, and after Friday’s independence vote, Rajoy said it was a move that “not only goes against the law but is a criminal act.”
Rajoy also said he was firing What does Catalonia want?
The Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona passed a motion Friday unilaterally establishing a new country. The motion was approved by the votes of pro-independence lawmakers, with 70 out of 135 votes in favor of secession. The Catalan regional government supported the breakaway bid, though opposition lawmakers walked out of the chamber ahead of the vote in protest. Secessionists hold a slim majority in the current parliament.
What does the Spanish government say?
The national government rejects Catalan independence, noting the constitution says Spain is “indivisible.”
Who will win?
After the Senate on Friday granted the government extraordinary powers to end the Catalan secession drive, the government dismissed the Catalan regional government, dissolved its parliament and called an early election for Dec. 21.
The pro-independence leaders and officials risk being arrested and sent to prison. the head of the Catalan regional police, shutting down the Catalan government’s overseas offices, and dismissing its representatives in Madrid and in Brussels, where the European Union has its headquarters.
After the Catalan parliament independence vote, Rajoy said it was a move that “in the opinion of a large majority of people not only goes against the law but is a criminal act.”
The Senate’s decision giving Rajoy special powers trumped the Catalan regional parliament’s vote to secede, which was doomed because the Constitutional Court has already consistently ruled against any steps toward independence.
The battle around Catalonia’s future is far from over, however.
Madrid’s move to take away Catalonia’s regional powers was sure to be seen as a humiliation and a provocation by Catalans and a backlash was expected, with planned street protests and the possibility that regional government workers could follow a policy of disobedience or non-cooperation.
On top of that, the Dec. 21 election could deliver a steadfastly pro-independence Catalan parliament, even if recent polls have suggested the region of 7.5 million people is roughly evenly split on secession.
Many Catalans strongly oppose independence and a group of so-called unionists was organizing a large-scale protest in Barcelona on Sunday.
A spokesman for Spain’s prosecutor’s office, meanwhile, said it would seek to bring rebellion charges against those responsible for the Catalan independence vote.