In defiance of Spain’s central government, the parliament of the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia formally voted in favor of independence on Friday, a goal that some regional leaders had been working toward since 2010.
The independence measure passed in the Parlament de Catalunya 70–10. Although 135 members are seated in the region’s assembly, dozens of lawmakers exited the chamber in protest of the vote.
A vote which sparked the most serious constitutional crisis Spain has faced since the country transitioned from fascism to democracy some 40 years ago, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy assumed control over the region following the independence vote.
Stating his parliamentary-approved actions were taken to “recover normality,” Rajoy said:
“(Carles Puigdemont) had the opportunity to return to legality and to call elections. It is what the majority of the Catalonian people asked for — but he didn’t want to do it. So the government of Spain is taking the necessary measures to return to legality.”
Under the powers granted in Article 155, Rajoy has dismissed regional President Carles Puigdemont and his 12-member cabinet, has been granted power to impose direct rule over the region, and has set snap elections for Dec. 21.
The motion passed the Spanish Senado by a vote of 214–47. Mr. Rajoy has created a special office to oversee direct rule over Catalonia.
Puigdemont, who has been officially removed from office, now faces the possibility of charges for rebellion which could carry a sentence of up to 30 years behind bars. On Saturday, the Catalan independence leader called for peaceful “democratic opposition” to Rajoy.
Despite jubilant scenes in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia, not all regional residents embraced independence. Police reported some minor clashes between pro-separatists and supporters of Madrid, but Puigdemont called for peaceful protests.
Global reaction to the vote overwhelmingly favored Madrid’s response: Germany, Italy, France, the UK, the European Commission and NATO expressed support for Rajoy and stated no recognition would be extended to Catalonia.
“I do not want a situation where, tomorrow, the European Union is made up of 95 different states,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “We need to avoid splits, because we already have enough splits and fractures and we do not need any more.”
According to media reports, almost 1,700 businesses have moved their headquarters out of the rebellious region since Catalans voted in-favor of independence at the beginning of October.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
[BBC News] [AP] [The Telegraph [Reuters] [euronews/YouTube] [Photo courtesy AP via Daily Mail]