Thursday, Jun 01, 2023 | Last Update : 07:31 AM IST

  World   Europe  29 Oct 2017  Fired Catalan leader urges resistance to Madrid rule

Fired Catalan leader urges resistance to Madrid rule

Published : Oct 29, 2017, 7:13 am IST
Updated : Oct 29, 2017, 7:13 am IST

Defiant Puigdemont accuses Madrid of trampling on will of Catalans.

Pro-independence demonstrators cheer outside the Catalan parliament, in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo: AP)
 Pro-independence demonstrators cheer outside the Catalan parliament, in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo: AP)

Barcelona: Catalonia’s secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont stood defiant on Saturday against Madrid’s moves to depose him, urging “democratic resistance” to direct rule imposed in a bid to stop the region breaking away from Spain.

In a televised statement, Mr Puigdemont accused the central government of trampling on the will of independence-seeking Catalans who rejoiced at Friday’s vote by regional lawmakers to declare an independent republic.

Madrid’s response to seize Catalan powers — the first curtailment of regional autonomy since Francisco Franco’s brutal 1939-75 dictatorship — constituted an “aggression”, he said, but insisted “democratic opposition” was the only response.

The central government’s intervention was “contrary to the will expressed by the citizens of our country at the ballot box,” Mr Puigdemont said. “In a democratic society, only parliaments can appoint or dismiss presidents.” In a copy of his speech, Mr Puigdemont signed off as “President of the Catalan government”.

Spain is on a knife edge as it grapples with the worst constitutional crisis in its contemporary history, triggered by an unlawful Catalan independence referendum on October 1 that was shunned by many, and marred by police violence.

Throwing down the gauntlet in the escalating standoff, Catalan lawmakers on Friday passed a motion, by 70 votes out of 135 in the regional parliament, to declare a Catalan republic.

Opposition MPs refused to even vote on the issue and walked out in disgust.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded swiftly by axing the Catalan government and Parliament, and calling December 21 elections to replace them.

In an official government notice published Saturday, Mr Rajoy’s deputy, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, was put in charge of administering the region.

Saenz de Santamaria was due to meet secretaries of state who will likely take charge of regional ministries.

The world is now watching to see whether Mr Puigdemont and his team will willingly step aside for caretaker envoys to be sent from Madrid.

Analysts warn that upheaval is likely, as civil servants may defy direct orders, or worse.

“We are likely to see more sustained unrest, possibly including strikes, as well as more serious clashes between national police and pro-independence activists,” said Federico Santi, an analyst at Eurasia Group, a US-based think-tank. “We will continue to work to build a free country,” Mr Puigdemont said.    

Tags: carles puigdemont, mariano rajoy