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Puigdemont: No snap regional election to be held

October 26, 2017

Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont has ruled out dissolving the regional parliament and calling a snap election. The Spanish Senate is set to approve suspending Catalonia's autonomy on Friday.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont speaks in front of flags
Image: Reuters/Y. Herman

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said on Thursday that he will not initiate a snap election, despite earlier reports that he would do so to defuse the ongoing standoff between Barcelona and Madrid over the region's drive for independence.

In a televised address, the president said he needed more "guarantees" from the Spanish government that it would not impose direct rule on Catalonia.

"I was ready to call an election if guarantees were given. There is no guarantee that justifies calling an election today," he said.

Puigdemont, who had been expected to speak multiple times earlier on Thursday, said the Catalan parliament had to decide how the region should respond to plans by the central government to suspend its autonomy.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said after Puigdemont's speech: "The independence leaders have shown their true face, they have promised a dream but are performing tricks."

She added that the central government was ready to move to a new phase "where the law is respected."

Read more: Is Catalan independence a second coup in democratic Spain?

The battle for Catalonia

Next step: Senate

On Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the central government would suspend Catalonia's autonomy by triggering Article 155 of the Spanish constitution.

Rajoy had also said that he would use extraordinary powers granted by Article 155 to dissolve the Catalan government and call early elections.

The upper chamber Spanish Senate, which mostly supports Rajoy's hardline stance against Barcelona, is set to approve that decision on Friday.

The government has never before evoked Article 155 against any of the country's 17 autonomous regions.

Puigdemont has accused Rajoy of wanting to carry out "the worst attack on institutions and the Catalan people" since Francisco Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975. Franco's government suppressed Catalan culture and forbade the official use of the region's language.

Read more: Catalonia: Fears that Madrid's decision to dissolve province's authority opens Pandora's box

One month later

Madrid and Barcelona have been locked in a standoff since Catalonia held a disputed independence referendum on October 1 in which 90 percent of voters opted for secession.

Spain had declared the vote illegal and voter turnout was only 43 percent on polling day. Puigdemont nevertheless said after the vote that "the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form of a republic."

More to come.

amp/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)