The Catalan regional parliament passed a motion to establish an independent republic, and within the same hour the Spanish Senate in Madrid voted to impose direct rule on the region, in what has been a dramatic and unprecedented afternoon in Spanish politics. The motion was carried by 70 votes to 10 despite a boycott by opposition MPs who left Spanish and Catalan flags draped on their seats as they walked out of the chamber. Pro-independence supporters gathered outside the parliament building to listen to the proceedings on speakers erupted into cheering as the results were read out.
Forty minutes after the ballot was passed in Barcelona the Senate in Madrid voted to invoke article 155 of the constitution authorising the central government to strip the Catalan government of its executive powers and impose direct rule on the region. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said he was declaring independence because he had not received sufficient guarantees from Madrid that they would not enact article 155. In turn, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that Puigdemont’s refusal to rule out a declaration of independence after the disputed election on October 1, left him with no option to but to take the unprecedented measure.
Pido tranquilidad a todos los españoles. El Estado de Derecho restaurará la legalidad en Cataluña. MR
— Mariano Rajoy Brey (@marianorajoy) October 27, 2017
In a speech Prime Minister Rajoy gave to the Senate this morning he said that the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and his ministers would be dismissed from their posts and elections called within six months, but Puigdemont would not be allowed to put himself forward as a candidate. He also said the parliament would be allowed to continue to meet but Madrid would claim the power to veto any independence motions put forward. Now that the standoff has come to a head it remains to be seen how exactly article 155 will be enacted, but both sides have taken to social media to call for calm. “I call on all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality to Catalonia,” Rajoy said in a tweet.
For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 27, 2017
EU Council President Donald Tusk also took to Twitter to say: “For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force.”