Catalan lawmakers vote to declare independence

Catalonia’s leader ruled out elections in a speech on Thursday evening, the day before the Spanish senate is expected to pass a bill that gives Madrid direct control of the region.Puigdemont said that while he was prepared to call elections,

Madrid had not provided motivation or guarantees that it would stop the process to impose direct rule."There are no guarantees that justify elections," he said.

The Catalan parliament later convened on Thursday evening to debate how to carry out the "independence mandate" and respond to Spain's intention to dissolve the regional government.

This is the first time the diverse Catalan parliament has met since the crisis took off in September.

The Catalan unionist Socialist party has called for last-minute elections to avoid direct rule from Madrid, while more radical members of the separatists have called for a stronger reaction to article 155, insinuating a declaration of independence is in order. 

“You still have the opportunity to avoid that article 155 is activated by calling elections in the parliament of Catalonia,” Miquel Iceta, head of the Socialist Party told Puigdemont, offering to personally accompany him to the Spanish senate on Friday.

The Catalan parliament, the majority of which is held by separatists, will come to a conclusion on Friday. 

'Noise and only noise'

Meanwhile, Madrid is preparing to strip autonomous powers from the Catalan administration following the Oct. 1 independence referendum via article 155 of the Spanish Constitution.

“Since last Saturday nothing relevant has happened, just noise and only noise,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria in the Spanish senate, which is expected to vote on article 155 on Friday.

Earlier on Thursday, Puigdemont had canceled a scheduled speech in which he was expected to call a snap election for the region following a vote for independence from Spain in the northeastern region.

The confusion is acute in Catalonia and local media have reported strains within Puigdemont’s coalition over how to react next.

On Wednesday night, Catalan leaders had clearly indicated they would declare independence in the forthcoming days but the ruling Catalan party later told local media that Puigdemont would trigger an election.

Earlier Thursday, large crowds gathered outside the regional government building in Barcelona, with many hoping that Puigdemont would declare independence.

Following an independence vote on Oct. 1, which was ruled illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court, the Catalan leader immediately suspended implementation of independence and called for talks with Madrid.

Two members of Catalonia’s ruling party, Jordi Cuminal and Albert Batalla, even announced their resignation Thursday, saying they disagreed with a plan to call a fresh regional election in the face of Article 155, which would remove Catalan autonomy.

Puigdemont was invited to speak on Thursday night at the Spanish senate but he declined the invitation.

The Spanish senate is set to pass the bill triggering Article 155 on Friday.

It will then need to be published in the Official State Bulletin before taking legal effect. 

Spain’s main opposition Socialist Party has said it will not support Article 155 if Catalonia announces an election.

However, Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party has a majority in the chamber.

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