Wednesday 19 September 2018

Catalonia 'could declare republic' at parliament debate

Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell delivered a statement on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell delivered a statement on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

Aritz Parra Barcelona

Catalonia's regional parliament looks set to put itself on a collision course with the Spanish government after the announcement that it will hold a debate this week on Spain's plan to take direct control of the north-eastern region.

Many fear the session could become a cover for a vote on declaring full independence.

Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell delivered a statement on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell delivered a statement on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has asked parliament to debate and vote on how to respond to the central Spanish government's plan, announced on Saturday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Parliament's governing body set the debate for Thursday.

Mr Rajoy is seeking to trigger Article 155 of the constitution, which allows the government to intervene in running Catalonia, after the Catalan regional government claimed a mandate to secede from Spain following a banned October 1 independence referendum.

Mr Puigdemont's speech was seen as a veiled threat to declare independence. The Spanish government says no dialogue is possible with independence on the table and is manoeuvring to fire all Catalan top officials and call an early regional election.

In Madrid, Spain's political parties designated 27 senators to study the government request to apply Article 155. The group includes 15 members of Mr Rajoy's ruling Popular Party, which means it will be approved.

The commission is expected to invite Mr Puigdemont to defend his case, most likely by Thursday, prior to a Senate vote on Friday to activate the measures. Deputy Spanish Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Mr Rajoy might name someone to take control of overseeing and co-ordinating ministries that will be involved in applying the takeover measures.

Speaking on Onda Cero radio station, she said once the Senate gives the green light, the Catalan government will be out of office immediately. She said Mr Puigdemont "will no longer be paid, he will not have a presidential signature" and will not be able to make decisions.

She also warned that the government could take other measures against Catalan government officials should they decide to ignore the measures.

A lawmaker in Mr Puigdemont's PDeCAT party said he was deciding whether to appear or not in the national Senate, adding that an address would be "to defend the Catalan institutions" and in line with his call for dialogue on how to find a path for Catalan independence.

In Barcelona, Lluis Corominas, spokesman for Catalan's governing Together for Yes coalition -which includes PDeCAT- accused Spain of acting "like a dictatorship" and called the use of Article 155 "an act of institutional violence without precedent".

"In this parliament, we won't be able to debate or vote any initiative without Madrid's permission," the lawmaker said. "That is not democracy."

Sergi Sabria, a spokesman for the Republican Left party, said the "best response" to the triggering of Article 155 is announcing "the Catalan Republic".

The far-left separatist CUP party called for "mass civil disobedience", describing Mr Rajoy's move as "the greatest aggression against the civil, individual and collective rights of the Catalan people" since the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who died in 1975.

Irish Independent

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