Spain plunges into constitutional crisis as Catalonia declares independence

World Today

Catalonia’s lawmakers declared independence from Spain on Friday. A short time later, the Spanish Senate in Madrid voted to give the Spanish government authority to take control of Catalonia.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the Senate that the prosperous region violated Spain’s Constitution by trying to gain independence. No one expects Madrid’s intervention in Catalonia to be easy.

CGTN’s Al Goodman has details of the crisis from Madrid.

It has become Spain’s biggest constitutional crisis in decades. The Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona voted for independence from Spain. A dream come true for secessionists who have campaigned for this for years. But a nightmare for unionists, including many in Catalonia.

“Today in parliament, the parliament of our country, a legitimate parliament, a parliament that came out in the elections of the 27th of September and took a largely expected step and fiercely fought for step,” said Carles Puigdemont, the Catalonian President.

Madrid wasn’t having of any of that. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy received a round of applause after he asked the Senate to grant unprecedented constitutional powers to the government to take over Catalonia. His conservative party’s majority in the Senate assured approval.

“The first move will be to fire the President of Catalonia, the vice president, and all the department councilors who are in the Catalan government,” he said. Rajoy then promised the Senate new Catalan elections within six months, and later in the day he announced elections for much sooner, on December 21.

But Rajoy heard strong criticism from Catalan senators. Josep Lluis Cleries, a Spanish Senator from Catalonia said, “This is an attack on democracy, Mr. Rajoy. You say the autonomy won’t be suspended. No, it goes much further. It suspends democracy in Catalonia.”

Many worry how it will be implemented, like Senator and former Catalan President Joes Montilla, who said, “I have my doubts that the Spanish government is conscious of the difficulties it will find. I’m worried about peaceful co-existence.”  

As the Spanish government moves to take direct control of Catalonia, it remembers the recent images seen around the world of Spanish police beating and injuring hundreds of Catalans try to vote in an independence referendum. Several government ministers insist that kind of violent confrontation will not be repeated.