After weeks of turmoil and anger, the government of Catalonia has taken the final step and declared itself an independent nation separate from Spain and the Madrid-based government. The Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont held the vote which saw a 70 to 10 victory (with the opposition party refusing to get involved). After the vote, he left the parliament to cheers of “President!”
Puigdemont called for independence and for other nations to recognize Catalonia as an independent nation after a series of events that have both captivated and shocked the world.
It began with Catalonia holding a referendum that was more for publicity than for actual political action and the Spanish police being sent in to shut it down. The police dragged voters out of polling stations and some reports estimate more than 900 injured.
In response to the violence administered by the Spanish state, matters were compounded when the European Union refused to condemn the actions of Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Madrid (the seat of Spanish government) then threatened to enact Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution which would revoke the powers that are afforded to Spain’s autonomous regions (of which there are 17) and return centralized control to Madrid itself. According to the BBC:
“Exceptional measures should only be adopted when no other remedy is possible,” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in an address to the Senate. “In my opinion there is no alternative. The only thing that can be done and should be done is to accept and comply with the law.”
However, the hefty rhetoric was not reserved for Spain’s government, “It is not going to be easy, it is not going to be free, it is not going to change in a day. But there is no alternative to a process towards the Catalan Republic,” lawmaker Marta Rovira said while debating the motion of independence.
The Spanish attorney general promised to charge those who voted in favor of independence with “rebellion”.
The next step is to see if the Catalonian government will hold their nerve in this matter. If they do so, the world will be watching the responses, not just of the Spanish government in Madrid, but also that of the European Union Commission who will no doubt have a powerful say in what actions Mr. Rajoy takes to either quell or disband the independence movement.
So far, no other nations have recognized the independence of Catalonia.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.