Pressure mounts on Catalan′s Carles Puigdemont over independence | News | DW | 14.10.2017
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Pressure mounts on Catalan's Carles Puigdemont over independence

Puigdemont is under pressure from all sides to clarify his position on independence. His minority government wants secession, but Madrid said it would use Article 155 to take control should Catalonia say it's out.

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Crisis in Catalonia: A society divided

The Spanish government is demanding Puigdemont categorically state that he has not declared independence from Spain or risk having Madrid seize control of the Catalan government.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave him until Monday to clarify his position and then until Thursday to change his mind if he states that Catalonia has declared independence.

Puigdemont made a symbolic declaration of independence last Tuesday, only to suspend it moments later with a call for negotiations with Madrid over the region's future.

Everyone wants their own clear answer

The seemingly contradictory statements had many in Spain and others watching around the world scratching their heads. That's led Spanish politicians to call for an unequivocal decision. 

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Opponents of Catalan independence take to the streets

"The answer must be without any ambiguity. He must say 'yes' or 'no,'" Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told a Madrid radio station. "If he answers ambiguously, it means he doesn't want dialogue and thus the Spanish government will have to take action."

Puigdemont is also under growing pressure from his pro-separatist allies to declare independence.

If he doesn't declare independence, then the far-left Catalan Party (CUP) will likely withdraw its support for the minority government in the regional parliament that Puigdemont heads up.

Read more: Spain rejects Catalonia's 'tacit' declaration of independence

On Friday, the CUP demanded Puigdemont make an unequivocal declaration of independence in defiance of Madrid's deadlines.

Such a hardline position is also being supported by the influential pro-independence civic group Asamblea Nacional Catalana (Catalan National Assembly).

They were joined on Saturday by another key member of Puigdemont's coalition, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, whose leader Oriol Junqueras said Catalonia should press ahead with splitting from Spain.

Puigdemont is given a standing ovation after a speech in the Catalonian parliament.

Puigdemont is given a standing ovation after a speech in the Catalonian parliament on Tuesday

Read more: Carles Puigdemont's roots and the struggle for independence from Spain

"We have an unequivocal and absolute commitment to fulfill the democratic mandate from October 1," Junqueras said.

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Barcelona against Madrid: Will Spain break up?

Article 155 of the constitution

Turnout at the independence referendum was just 43 percent, as many separatist opponents boycotted the vote, but the Catalan government said 90 percent of the votes cast were for independence. The Spanish Constitutional Court, however, declared the vote illegal before it even began. During several violent clashes, federal police entered some polling places and seized voting papers and ballot boxes.

Article 155 of the Spanish constitution says the central government can "take the measures needed" to force an autonomous community to meet its constitutional requirements. The article essentially suspends the political autonomy of a region that violates the law.

Read more: Mariano Rajoy mulls 'nuclear option' on Catalan autonomy

This article, while not laying out specific requirements, would give Rajoy the authority to sack the Catalan government and call a regional election. But it has never been used since the constitution was adopted in 1978 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.

Junqueras, who is also Catalonia's regional vice president, said separatists need to end their internal fighting and unify behind Catalonia's president in order to negotiate for independence with Spain's central government.

"We must preserve the unity that is necessary to go all the way on this path to a republic," Junqueras said. "We must reiterate our belief in unity, in unity behind our government and the majority of the parliament."

While the standoff continues, dozens of companies have moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia to ensure they maintain unfettered access to the European Union's market.

The exodus has sparked fears that the crisis will severely damage the region's economy.

bik/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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