Puigdemont’s Response to the Independence Referendum
After Catalonia’s turbulent October 1st Referendum Catalan President Carles Puidemont made the much-awaited official response statement last Tuesday. In it he affirmed that “Catalonia had won the right to become an independent state, and had won the right to be listened to and respected.” He noted that 800 citizens were injured due to indiscriminate police violence and that some 770,000 people were unable to vote due to the forced closure of precincts. Still, he recounted that 2,286,217 Catalan citizens voted despite the violent attempts by the Spanish state to stop the referendum, that the Yes votes had won, and that he is committed to following the path towards independence for Catalonia.
However, rather than proceeding with an outright declaration of independence Puigdemont continued to say that he “proposed that the (Catalan) Parliament suspends the effects of the declaration of independence so that in the next few weeks we can begin a dialogue without which it would be impossible to come to a solution.” In addition, he called for international help with mediation to resolve the assured conflicts between Catalonia and Spain. He also noted that this course of action, a call for dialogue and suspended declaration of independence, was taken out of responsibility, respect and an effort to deescalate tensions between the Catalan and Spanish governments. This middle of the road approach left many with questions, including Spanish President Mariano Rajoy who has required that Puigdemont clarify his statement by today.
Puigdemont entering the Catalan Parliament last Tuesday, Credit: Generalitat de Catalunya
What Happens Next?
By 10 am local time this morning Puigdemont will send an official communication to Rajoy and the Spanish Government clarifying whether or not he has declared independence for Catalonia. After many meetings, discussions and advice from various Catalan and international politicians and groups it is still not clear exactly how Puigdemont will respond. Some pro-independence organizations have called for an official independence declaration, others have asked for new elections to be held. Nació Digital reported that according to their sources Puigdemont is expected to reference the “ratification” of the October 1st referendum mandate (which calls for an independence declaration as a result of the “Yes” votes winning a clear majority) and also another attempt to open a dialogue between the two governments. With Rajoy’s looming threat of the use of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution the Catalan leaders are doing everything possible to show that they are open to dialogue.
What is Article 155?
Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution is a measure put into place to ensure that the autonomous regions cannot act outside of the Spanish law or do anything to harm the “general interests” of Spain. The central Spanish Government sees the declaration of Catalan Independence as breaking both rules in Article 115 and has threatened to apply the law if Puigdemont does clarify that he is declaring independence.
Rajoy would then have to send the proposal of the implementation of Article 155 to the Spanish Senate where it would need to pass with an absolute majority to be enacted. Approval is nearly assured with the conservative, ant-independence party, People’s Party (Partido Popular) holding a majority in the Senate.
Once passed the central Spanish Government would have to notify Puigdemont that he must stop the independence declaration and fulfill the obligations put in place by the Spanish Constitution. If he fails to do so Rajoy would have the power to “adopt the necessary measures to force compliance” by the Catalan government. This would likely begin with the Spanish government taking control of the local Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, many of whom were seen defending voters and polling stations during the Independence Referendum in defiance of Spanish government orders.