Catalonia's Parliament to Vote on Declaration of Independence
Catalans Are Said to Send Emissary to Madrid to Plead for a Deal
(Bloomberg) -- Catalan lawmakers are preparing to vote on a declaration of independence after the separatist administration’s last-ditch mission to win concessions in Madrid appeared to have failed.
The regional parliament in Barcelona began its debate at about 1:30 p.m. with expectation mounting among the thousands of activists gathered outside that the pro-independence majority might deliver a historic result. Lawmakers voted to hold a secret ballot on the resolution.
“We constitute the Catalan Republic, as an independent and sovereign country, under the rule of law,” said the proposed resolution, read out by the speaker before the vote.
In Madrid, the Spanish Senate is preparing for its own vote to grant Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy the power to seize direct control of the rebel region. Rajoy’s party holds a majority in the upper chamber.
Catalonia’s tumultuous push for independence is on a knife edge after separatists turned on Puigdemont on Thursday when he was moments away from capitulating to pressure from Spain. The Catalan leader was seeking a way to avoid the chaos of an illegal secession without provoking the anger of hardcore supporters. A senior Catalan official even made a last-ditch trip to Madrid Friday in the hope of securing concessions that would help Puigdemont put a brave face on a climbdown.
"The hard-liners on both sides are in the ascendancy at this point so the collision is coming,” said Angel Talavera, an analyst at Oxford Economics in London. "They are both playing to their audiences and they can’t step back. Puigdemont has basically caved into the more radical element in his movement.”
On the main boulevard that surrounds the legislature, the government’s supporters sang the separatist anthem Els Segadors and waved pro-independence flags, shouting demands that Spain’s National Court free two activists jailed last week. A spokesman for the organizers said they planned to stay until the Catalan Republic is declared.
Earlier this week, pro-independence activists had called for a human shield around government buildings to thwart Spanish efforts to take control and protect their representatives. Yesterday, they focused their ire on Puigdemont, calling him a “traitor,” as his commitment to declaring independence wavered.
“Now is the moment to build the republic,” radical lawmaker Carles Riera said inside the chamber as the debate advanced. “We propose that Catalonia becomes an independent state.”
Opponents of the movement accused Puigdemont and his allies of riding roughshod over legal checks in their push for independence and of creating division between Catalans. People’s Party spokesman Alejandro Fernandez read out a long list of critics -- including French President Emmanuel Macron and Catalan folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat -- who he said have been labeled “fascists” by the separatists.
“Even you were a fascist for three hours yesterday,” Fernandez said, referring to the period on Thursday when the Catalan leader almost dropped his push for independence in favor of regional elections.
The Catalan leader said he decided against a snap election because he didn’t have the guarantees he’d sought that he’d be able to carry it out, as he swapped jibes with the prime minister over who was to blame for the breakdown in their relations.
“The only talks I was invited to was to discuss terms and conditions of Catalan independence," Rajoy told the senate on Friday. “Exceptional measures should only be adopted when there is no other possible remedy.’’
--With assistance from Rodrigo Orihuela Charles Penty and Thomas Gualtieri
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