Catalan parliament declares independence, Spain fights back

Catalan lawmakers have voted to declare independence from Spain, while Madrid has vowed to quash the region’s secessionist bid.

Catalan Members of Parliament (MPs) backed the motion 70-10 in a ballot boycotted by the opposition.

The Spanish parliament has approved direct rule over the region.

Earleir, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had told senators direct rule was needed to return law, democracy and stability to Catalonia.

The crisis began when Catalans backed independence in a disputed vote earlier this month.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence. But Spain’s Constitutional Court had ruled the vote illegal.

The debate came after Catalan President Carles Puigdemont on Thursday opted against declaring independence or calling early elections, instead calling on MPs to decide.

The measure calls for the transfer of legal powers from Spain to an independent Catalonia.

But the Spanish Constitutional Court is likely to declare it illegal, and few in the international community will recognise Catalan statehood.

Rajoy has called on Spaniards to remain calm, promising to “restore legality” to Catalonia.

A majority of senators gave Spanish Prime Minister the go-ahead Friday to apply unprecedented measures including sacking Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet.

It also authorised him to curtail Catalan parliamentary powers.

The Spanish government must now decide how and when to apply the measures. It says they are temporary and aimed at restoring legality in the northeastern region that is an economic powerhouse in Spain.

Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product and polls show its people roughly evenly divided over independence.

In Barcelona before the vote, about 500 mayors of Catalan towns chanted “independence!” and raised their ceremonial wooden staves in a hall inside the regional parliament.

The proposal that was approved had been submitted by the ruling Catalan Together for Yes coalition and their allies in the far-left CUP party.

It states that “we establish the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state of democratic and social rule of law.”

“Today is the day that many Catalans’ long-held desire will be fulfilled, but tomorrow the cruel reality will set in with the Spanish state armed with its interpretation of Article 155,” the former speaker of the Catalan parliament Joan Rigol i Roig, told The Associated Press. “We can only hope that the conflict remains in the political realm.”

The independence move was opposed by all opposition lawmakers in the prosperous region.

Carlos Carrizosa, spokesman for the pro-union Citizens party, the leading opposition party in Catalonia’s parliament, ripped a copy of the proposal into pieces during the debate ahead of the vote.

“With this paper, you leave those Catalans who don’t follow you orphaned without a government. And that’s why Citizens won’t let you ruin Catalonia,” he said. “Today is a sad, dramatic day in Catalonia. Today is the day that you (secessionists) carry out your coup against the democracy in Spain,” he said.

Marta Ribas of the leftist Catalonia Yes We Can party said “two grave errors” were being committed Friday.

“First, the Article 155 which will take away our rights and impact all the country. But it is a grave error to respond to that barbarity with an even bigger error,” she said. “The unilateral declaration of independence won’t protect us against Article 155, you will only make the majority of people suffer.”

Meanwhile, the Catalan Republic has been aborted less than one hour after it was born as the upper house of Spain’s parliament on Friday authorised the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to rule Catalonia directly from Madrid.

Rajoy is now expected to convene his cabinet to adopt the first measures to govern Catalonia. This could include firing the Barcelona government and assuming direct supervision of Catalan police forces.

Catalan lawmakers voted Friday to declare independence from Spain, but Madrid vowed, in turn, to “restore legality” and quash the region’s secessionist bid.

With thousands of pro-independence activists gathered outside, the regional parliament in Barcelona passed a resolution to “declare Catalonia an independent state in the form of a republic”.

“The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia,” he tweeted immediately after controversial vote.

Under the eyes of a nervous nation, Catalonia’s regional parliament held a secret ballot, despite an opposition walkout, on a resolution the region´s authorities have no legal power to execute.

The motion was approved with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions, a result that immediately saw Spanish shares fall sharply.

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