Spain plans for Catalan elections, escalating independence row

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Spain plans for Catalan elections, escalating independence row


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AFP

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Catalan authorities have refused to drop their campaign for independence from Spain

The Spanish government has agreed with the opposition Socialists (PSOE) party to hold regional elections in Catalonia in January, according to the PSOE.

The elections are part of a package of measures being put in place to suspend the region’s autonomy, as its leader threatens to declare independence.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will hold a cabinet meeting on Saturday to begin the process of imposing direct rule.

A referendum, outlawed by Spain, was held in Catalonia earlier this month.

Of the 43% of Catalans who reportedly voted, 90% were in favour of independence. Most “No” voters boycotted the ballot.

Mr Rajoy’s ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) has not confirmed the agreement to press for a regional vote.

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Socialist politician Carmen Calvo announced the agreement to hold regional elections in an interview on national television on Friday.

She appealed to the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to endorse the elections. Mr Puigdemont has refused calls from the Spanish government to abandon his secessionist campaign.

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Catalonia’s government will be dissolved ahead of the vote, which is part of a package of extraordinary measures being imposed on the region.

The government has said it will trigger Article 155 of the constitution, which allows Madrid to impose direct rule in a crisis but has never been invoked in its nearly 40-year history.

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The full list of measures will be drawn up during Saturday’s cabinet meeting. Spain’s Senate, controlled by the Popular Party and its allies, would then have to approve the list.

Other measures may include taking control of Catalonia’s regional police force.

Article 155 does not give the government the power to fully suspend autonomy, and it will not be able to deviate from the list of measures.

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As a deadline for the Catalan authorities to abandon independence came and went on Thursday, the government accused the region of seeking confrontation.

The independence campaign had caused “serious damage” to “the coexistence and the economic structure of Catalonia”, the government said in a statement.

Mr Rajoy is currently attending an EU summit in Brussels.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, says there is no space for any international mediation or EU action on the Catalan crisis – though he did say there was “no hiding that the situation in Spain is concerning”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday sided with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, telling reporters that “people should be abiding by the rule of law and uphold the Spanish constitution”.



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