At around 14:45 today, the Catalan government declared that parliament had voted 70-10 (with the 2 opposition abstaining) for Catalan independence. Weeks of uncertainty have culminated in this moment. In the previous public vote, which was marred by violence from the Spanish courts, only 43% of Catalan people voted. Many people were not able to cast their vote. However, out of those who did, 90% were in favour of independence. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont decided to take independence to parliament after asking the Spanish government for increased talks to no prevail.
Immediately after the declaration of independence, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the senators that direct rule was needed to return democracy, law, and stability to Catalonia. The Spanish government upper house then voted 214 – 47 in favour of direct rule. Rajoy is now expected to hold talks with the cabinet and decide what measures to take. Direct rule may involve firing Catalan leaders and the Spanish government, thus taking the control of regional powers, police, healthcare, and public media. The ambiguity surrounding direct rule is overwhelming.
Will Spain risk the increased violence, and send armed forces and police to take control? President of the European Council Donald Tusk said after the vote that “for the EU nothing changes…I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force”. This was immediately echoed by Puigdemont, who stated that Catalans were always in favour of force of argument. The Catalan stance on political talks is stubborn, but the Spanish government can be inhuman as previously seen.
Furthermore, in this statement Donald Tusk makes it clear that the EU will not recognise Catalan independence, only a united Spain. Other politically powerful countries will follow suit due to international relations. US Department of State released a statement saying: “Catalonia is an integral part of Spain and US supports Spanish governments constitutional measures to keep Spain united.” However, if a forced argument is put into play by the Spanish government, this may change many political leader’s views, increasing international sympathy for the Catalan dependence movement. Many politicians have also congratulated Catalonia including, former Basque President Juan Jose Ibarretxe and Irish TD Gerry Adams. Many smaller nations and separatist regions will certainly back Catalonia, especially the ones which recently became independent.
The next few days are going to be extremely nerve-wracking for the Catalan people and politicians. What will direct rule entail? Will the Spanish state and its regions face violence? Some countries will recognise independence, some will not, but the movement is strong and only time will tell what is going to happen.
[Jamie Arathoon – @JamieArathoon]