Spain’s Prime Minister has demanded Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont , clarify whether or not he has declared independence.
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As we reported last night as events unfolded, Puigdemont gave a somewhat farcical speech, appearing to declare independence, saying that “Catalonia has won the right to be an independent state.”
It sparked cheers from the thousands of pro-independence supporters lining Barcelona’s streets, but it was swiftly followed by a confusing statement that he was proposing “to suspend the effect of the independence declaration…in order to work towards putting into practice the result of the referendum”. So…Catalonia isn’t independent then?
To outsiders, this appeared to be a compromise. Puigdemont had blinked first and offered Madrid a temporary ceasefire to try and get a dialogue going, however, it later emerged that the Catalan leader had indeed signed the declaration document – but said they won’t actually break away for a few weeks. So…Catalonia is independent then?
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This puts Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, in a difficult position. If Catalonia has illegally declared independence, the Spanish government can invoke Article 155 of the constitution, which suspends Catalonia’s autonomy and allows Spain to directly control the region.
If they haven’t unilaterally declared independence, such a move would be seen as Spain trying to oust a democratically elected government (even if they do disagree with the events of the last few weeks).
The president of the Catalan People’s Party, Xavier García Albiol, told El Periodico that they have been given five days to clarify their position, however the Spanish government wouldn’t confirm how long the Catalans have actually been given.
If Puigdemont doesn’t respond, or satisfy Spain’s demand for clarity, Rajoy is being encouraged to invoke Article 155 early next week in order to bring some stability to the situation. Although direct rule may satisfy businesses and the international community, it’s going to be a political nightmare for both sides.