In what has been Spain’s most tumultuous days in modern politics, the government maintained its stand against Catalonia’s separatist leaders who defied the country’s constitution with an unlawful declaration of independence. The regional government and its parliament were dissolved on Friday 27 October, 2017, and the question is: will a new election bring an end to the spiraling chaos?
After the regional governing body passed a motion to establish and independent Catalan Republic on Friday, a large number of jubilant supporters were seen celebrating Catalonia’s independence outside the Catalan Parliament building in Barcelona, Spain.
Lawmakers voted in favor of the motion for independence, an act which forced the Spanish government into action a few hours after the secession move.
According to a report from AP, the Spanish Senate granted its central government a special constitutional power to crack down hard on the wealthy region’s quest for autonomy.
In a bid to preserve his conservative government’s interest, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy late on Friday called for an emergency meeting where some radical measures against Catalonia was announced, including a fixed date for regional elections – 21 December, 2017. The announcement which was passed through a nationwide broadcast attracted boos from a large number of disgruntled supporters who gathered in front of the government palace.
The Spanish government and Constitutional Court have both said that Catalonia’s declaration of independence is illegal, null and void.
Rajoy said the vote was a calculated plan which is not only against the law but “a criminal act.”
“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 of the central government’s decision to conduct regional elections in December.
The prime minister also said he has fired the head of Catalan police, closed down the regional government’s overseas office, and dismissed its representatives in Brussels (the European Union headquarters location) and Madrid.
Political analysts believe there’s war brewing between Spain and Catalonia; while the former sees its actions as necessary, the latter considers it humiliating. In the face of provocation and huge backlash from the superior power, there are speculations that the seceding region and its workers could retaliate with a policy of disobedience and non-cooperation.
Street protests and police brutality have been a common occurrence in recent months. Worse still, a part of Catalonians are against independence. A group which calls themselves “unionists” said they’re organizing a protest on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a rep for Spain’s prosecutor’s office said rebellion charges will be filed against all lawmakers who voted for Catalan independence.
While the Spanish constitution describes the country as one indivisible entity, the 1978 constitution which came into existence after Gen. Francisco Franco’s long reign created a total of 17 regions with decentralized powers, Catalonia being one of them.
The call for independence started in 2010 after the Spanish government made changes to some parts of its original charter which would have allowed any of the decentralized units greater autonomy and recognize it as a nation within Spain.
“In the days ahead we must keep to our values of pacifism and dignity. It’s in our, in your hands, to build the republic,” Puigdemont said after shouts of “FREEDOM” was heard among the officials and lawmakers who voted in favor of Catalonia’s independence, which was reportedly approved by the 135-member parliament. Secessionists held a slim margin of only 70 votes in their favor.
Opposition lawmakers were said to have boycotted the elections.
“I feel so emotional after the huge fight we went through, we finally got it … the independence of Catalonia!” said 74-year-old Rosalina Cordera Torelles at the famous Sant Jaume Square outside the regional government office.
Another 24-year-old supporter, Rita Carboneras, who spoke with newsmen said she could hardly contain her joy on the historic achievement, prior to its cancellation.
“I’m super, super, super happy. Super excited,” she said. “So relieved. Now we are Catalan at last. We can be ourselves. We are just happy, look everyone around. Everything is so exciting.”
The Spanish Senate in Madrid voted against Catalonia’s independence with an overwhelming margin of 214 to 47 in favor of granting the government exceptional powers.
The main opposition Socialist and pro-business Citizens parties support Rajoy’s stance on Catalonia, and many Spaniards outside the region are scornful of Catalonia’s secession ambitions. Rajoy has also received support from outside Spain, with other European leaders, including Germany, France and Britain, rejecting Catalonia’s claims.
The U.S. administration also backed Rajoy, after President Donald Trump last month branded the Catalan independence ballot as “foolish.”
“Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The EU says Catalonia will be tossed out of the bloc if it leaves Spain and would have to apply to become a member, a lengthy process.
Some among Catalonia’s roughly 200,000 civil servants have said they will refuse to obey orders from Madrid. They risk being punished or even fired under the special powers granted to central authorities by the nation’s Senate on Friday.