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Catalan leader asks MPs to debate Spain takeover bid

Barcelona, Thursday

Catalonia’s parliament is debating the crisis over the regional government’s push for independence from Spain. Carles Puigdemont said he had considered calling polls to stave off the central government’s takeover bid, but received “no guarantees” from the central government to make this possible. He instead asked MPs to discuss the way forward.

The Spanish government plans to strip Puigdemont of his powers. The Senate is expected to approve the move on Friday. Article 155 of the Spanish constitution allows Madrid to impose direct rule in the region.

Large crowds gathered outside the regional government building in Barcelona, ahead of Puigdemont’s much-anticipated statement. Many hoped that he would declare independence. But there was speculation that he might call regional elections in a effort to avoid direct rule from Madrid. However, Puigdemont did neither. Two of his MPs said they were resigning in protest.

“I have been prepared to call elections, as long as guarantees are given,” he said. He added that Spain’s governing Popular Party had not given such assurances—without giving any details.

It is up to the (Catalan) parliament to proceed with what the majority determines.” Puigdemont declared independence after a referendum on 1 October, which was ruled illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

But the Catalan leader immediately suspended implementation, calling for talks. The regional government said that of the 43 per cent who took part in the referendum, 90 per cent were in favour of independence.

After the contested, and deeply divisive plebiscite, Puigdemont declared Catalan independence, but immediately suspended the move. The central government, in response, turned to Article 155 of the constitution, a never-before-used provision designed to rein in rebel regions.

Thousands of Catalans marched for independence in Barcelona Thursday chanting “independence.” One banner read “Puigdemont, traitor.” Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria replied to Puigdemont’s announcement by saying the government was ready to move to a new phase “where the law is respected”. -BBC

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