Saturday 25 May 2019

Catalan secession push is attack on democracy – Spanish king

Felipe VI said the secession row should serve as a lesson on preserving the rule of law and national sovereignty.

King Felipe VI of Spain delivers a speech at Davos (AP)
King Felipe VI of Spain delivers a speech at Davos (AP)

By Ciaran Giles

Spain’s King Felipe VI has said the recent Catalan push for independence was an attack on his country’s democratic system, and should serve as a lesson for the world on the need to preserve the rule of law and national sovereignty.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Felipe said what happened in Catalonia was “an attempt to undermine the basic rules of our democratic system”.

Spain experienced its worst political crisis in decades when the Catalan parliament declared independence on October 27. Spain responded by invoking special powers allowing it to remove the regional government, dissolve Catalonia’s parliament and call fresh regional elections in December.

The election, however, saw separatist parties regaining a slim majority, and fugitive former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has since been chosen as the candidate to form another government, further fuelling the row.

The king spoke as Mr Puigdemont met the new Catalan parliament speaker in Brussels to discuss how he can be re-elected.

Mr Puigdemont is wanted in Spain on possible rebellion and sedition charges as part of an investigation into the independence declaration and faces arrest if he returns for the investiture.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont addresses the media in Brussels (AP)

Speaking to reporters, Mr Puigdemont did not clarify what he plans to do next.

“The ideal way would be to be present,” he said, but added that “there are other ways, we don’t rule out any”.

Alternatively, he could try to be elected in absentia, but Spain has said it would fight this in court.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated that the law would upheld and that Mr Puigdemont would be arrested if he returns.

He added that the government would take legal action immediately if the Catalan parliament announces it will allow Mr Puigdemont to be voted in from abroad.

Mr Puigdemont holds a meeting in Brussels with Catalan officials (AP)

Spain’s interior minister said surveillance will be stepped up to ensure Mr Puigdemont cannot re-enter the country undetected.

The Catalan parliament, based in Barcelona, has to hold a first investiture vote by January 31.

Polls consistently show that most Catalans want the right to decide the region’s future, but they are evenly divided over splitting from Spain.

Press Association

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