The catalan regional parliament voted to declare independence from Spain today. The motion was supported by an owerwhelming majority of members of parliament, with 70 voting in favor, 10 against and 2 absenties in the 135-seat chamber. Opposition parties – including the Popular Party, the Catalan Socialist Party and Citizens – opted to boycott the vote by leaving the assembly before it took place. Parties in favor of the resolution announced their intention of establishing a “Catalan Republic as an independent, sovereign, democratic, social State”.
The decision by the catalan parliament prompted the spanish Senate to vote in favor of passing Article 155 of the Constitution, which gives Madrid direct rule of the disputed territory. Under this extraordinary status, the spanish administration would have jurisdiction of catalan media, police force and economy, as well as power to sack Carles Puigdemont and his ministers from the regional government. Mariano Rajoy has urged spanish citizens to remain calm, saying that decisions will be taken to make sure the region goes “back to legality”.
At an international level, the European Union has backed Madrid in the handling of the situation. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has stated that Spain remain its only interlocutor, while also insisting on Rajoy the importance of “force of argument”, rather than the “argument of force”. The United States, the United Kingdom and Germany have also voiced their support for the spanish government.
After the vote took place, Puigdemont urged catalans to “stay strong”, acknowledging that the path ahead would not be easy. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in support of the result, following his words with applause and repeating chants of “freedom, freedom.”