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Catalonia - Referendum 01 October 2017

A minority of Catalans want independence, but a majority supported an independence vote to settle the issue, according to a July 2017 poll. Catalonia will declare independence from Spain within 48 hours if voters back secession in an October referendum, according to a draft bill proposed by secessionist parties.

Following a violent and chaotic independence referendum in Catalonia on 01 October 2017, Catalan President Charles Puigdemont announced that the breakaway region had won the "right to independence." While specifics on the vote tally were in short supply, the Catalan leader affirmed that the region had won the right to be an independent, sovereign state. "We have won the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic," declared Puigdemont, surrounded by senior Catalan leaders, during a live televised address. Puigdemont asserted that Europe and the EU would no longer be able "to look the other way," with regard to a free and independent Catalonia.

Catalonia would hold a referendum on independence from Spain on 01 October 2017, the region's head Carles Puigdemont said 09 June 2017. The announcement set the stage for months of confrontation with the central government in the capital, Madrid, which says such a vote is illegal and must not take place. "The question will be: 'Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic'," Puigdemont said in a televised statement after a meeting of his cabinet.

He said attempts to agree a date and the wording of the question with the Madrid government - headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy - failed and left him with no other choice than moving unilaterally. "We have always made very diverse offers and all of them have been rejected without any exception," Puigdemont said.

A poll conducted by the Catalan government in June 2017 found that 41.1 percent of respondents were in favor of independence, while 49.4 percent were against. However, of the 67.5 percent of voters who said they would participate in the referendum, 62.4 percent said they would vote "Yes" and 37.6 percent responded "No."

The Spanish online newspaper eldiario.es and the Catalan Now released the results of two separate polls. According to the one Commissioned by eldiario.es, 59.9% of Catalans wished to vote on 01 October regardless of the referendum having been prohibited. Of those who said they will take part in the referendum, 59.5% were in favor of independence and 30.7% are against. The opinion poll commissioned by Now shows similar estimates in terms of expected participation (60.2%) as well as a broad support for a referendum on independence (70.7%). In terms of the preferred outcome, 44.1% of respondents say will vote Yes and 38.1% say will vote No.

The President of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, stated 1 July 2017 that "the Next 1-O citizens must choose between accepting the status quo, with an empty autonomy of content, or declaring independence, within the framework of a Europe of shared sovereignty. "" There are no other alternatives because the Spanish government He has systematically refused to offer any other " , he concluded.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to block the referendum, calling on mayors to not "participate in an illegal referendum." The country's Constitutional Court deemed the referendum illegal earlier this month and the Spanish government has gone to great lengths to prevent the vote from taking place, including threatening hundreds of regional mayors with arrest. . More than two-thirds of the region's mayors have said they will violate orders from Madrid and allow the use of municipal buildings to facilitate the vote.

Spain's paramilitary national police force said on 24 September 2017 that its agents had seized more than 1.3 million posters, flyers and pamphlets promoting Catalonia's planned secession referendum. Spain's chief public prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza warned that Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalonian regional government, risks being arrested depending on how events unfold. Catalonia's top court warned seven newspapers against publishing campaign material.

Catalonia's government said it had set up hundreds of polling stations across the northeastern region ahead of the vote that Madrid has declared illegal. "Everything is prepared at the more than 2,000 voting points so they have ballot boxes and voting slips, and have everything people need to express their opinion," Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said 29 September 2017.

Spain's central government, bolstered by a Constitutional Court ruling declaring the referendum invalid, vowed to block the unauthorized poll. "I insist that there will be no referendum on Oct. 1," central government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told a news conference. "Nobody is above the law and whoever violates them will face consequences." Spain's constitution stipulates that only the federal government has the power to call a referendum on sovereignty. Madrid announced it would centralize the command of all police operations in Catalonia, including the region's autonomous Mossos d'Esquadra police force. Measures included the charter of ferries to accommodate thousands of extra police being sent to the region in northeast Spain to stop the vote taking place.

The Catalan government on 07 October 2017 said approximately 90 percent of those who voted opted for independence, although turnout was only 43 percent. Spanish security forces were widely criticized for their use of force during the independence referendum that left hundreds of people wounded. Local media reported that many of those against independence boycotted the vote. Catalans calling themselves a "silent majority" opposed to their region's independence from Spain took to the streets in Barcelona on 08 October 2017. Police estimated 350,000 people took part while organizers put the number of participants at nearly one million.

Puigdemont said 10 October 2017 said it was important to reduce tensions surrounding the vote and proposed to suspend the effect of the independence declaration to continue talks with Madrid. He said that the results of "self-determination referendum" on 01 October were a "yes" to independence. In his first address after the historic referendum in Catalonia that saw over 90 percent of voters backing region’s independence from Spain, Puigdemont said that millions of Catalans believe that the region should become a sovereign state.

After Puigdemont's speech, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the Catalan leader "doesn't know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go." She said Puigdemont had put Catalonia "in the greatest level of uncertainty seen yet."

Mariano Rajoy, President of the Government of Spain, demanded the Catalan leader clarify whether independence has been declared, suggesting this will determine whether Spain steps in to suspend the region's autonomy. “The cabinet has agreed to require formally to the Catalan government to confirm whether or not it has declared independence,” Rajoy said in a televised address on 11 October 2017. “The answer from the Catalan president will determine future events, in the next few days,” he added, pledging to act in a “cautious and responsible” way. Rajoy said the clarity was required before activating article 155 of the Spanish constitution, a so-called "nuclear option" that would allow him to suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy and take over the region.

Catalan authorities must drop a bid for independence by 19 October 2017, the Spanish government said 16 October 2017, moving closer to imposing direct rule over the region after its leader missed an initial deadline to back down. Spain had initially set a Monday deadline for Carles Puigdemont to explicitly say whether or not he proclaimed that Catalonia was breaking away from Spain. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had demanded that Puigdemont answer the question, "Have you declared independence in Catalonia?" with a simple "Yes" or "No", adding that any ambiguous response would be considered a confirmation that a declaration of independence had been made.

In a letter sent Monday 16 October 2017, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont called for two more months of dialogue and requested that Spanish authorities halt "all repression" in Catalonia. Puigdemont also called for a meeting with Rajoy "as soon as possible... Let's not let the situation deteriorate further. With good will, recognising the problem and facing it head on, I am sure we can find the path to a solution".

Spain's Justice Minister Rafael Catala as said that Puigdemont's response was insufficient. "The question was clear but the answer is not," Catala told journalists.

Spain's government said 19 October 2017 it will suspend Catalonia's political autonomy, as the region failed to clarify its stance on independence. Spain's government had given the Catalan regional government until 10 AM on Thursday to clarify whether it declared independence from Spain following an October 1st referendum.

The central government said a special Cabinet session will be held on Saturday to discuss measures to restore legality in Catalonia's self-government. It added that the Cabinet will approve measures that will be sent to the Senate to protect the general interest of all Spaniards.

The suspension of regional autonomy would be the first in Spain since its current constitution was established in 1978. Catalonia's leader Carles Puigdemont vowed to unilaterally declare independence if the central government suspends the region's autonomy.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariono Rajoy announced 21 October 2017 he would dismiss Catalonia's separatist government and call for new elections in an attempt to prevent the semi-autonomous region from declaring its independence. In a televised address, Catalonia's separatist leader Carles Puigdemont called plans by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to replace him and his Cabinet an "attempt to humiliate" Catalonia and an "attack on democracy." Puigdemont's comments were a veiled threat to push ahead with an independence declaration.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont called 28 October 2017 for "democratic opposition" to Madrid's takeover of the region following Catalonia's unilateral declaration of independence a day earlier. "It's very clear that the best form of defending the gains made up until now is democratic opposition to Article 155," Puigdemont said in a brief televised statement.

Spain sacked the chief of Catalonia's regional police force, Josep Lluis Trapero, as the government in Madrid moved to take control of the region and block its push for independence. Trapero became a hero to the secessionists after his force took a much softer stance than national police in enforcing a government ban on an independence referendum on October 1. The force was riven by distrust between those for and against independence and is estranged from Spain's national police forces, Mossos and national police officers have told Reuters.

Spain's interior ministry named a new chief for the regional police on Saturday 28 October 2017 who insisted that the 17,000 officers of the force should remain neutral. Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido met the new police chief in Madrid on Monday 30 October 2017. The force had already withdrawn protection for sacked regional government members, who were also left without their official cars. Their portraits were removed from the walls of public buildings.

There had been doubts over how the Mossos d'Esquadra, as the Catalan police are called, would respond if ordered to evict Puigdemont and his government. In an effort to defuse tensions, the regional police force urged its members to behave in a neutral manner and not to take sides

"Given that there is it is likely to be an increase in gatherings and rallies of citizens in all the territory and that there are people of different thoughts, we must remember that it is our responsibility to guarantee the security of all and help these to take place without incident," the memo said.

After the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence on 27 October 2017, Rajoy responded by axing Puigdemont and his executive, dissolving parliament, and calling snap 21 December 2017 regional elections to quash what he called an "escalation of disobedience". An opinion poll published in centre-right newspaper El Mundo 29 October 2017 said separatist parties would lose their majority in Catalonia’s regional parliament if elections were held today.

Catalan National Assembly (ANC) President Jordi Sanchez, and Jordi Cuixart, the leader of Omnium Cultural, an association that promotes Catalan culture, are also being investigated for “sedition” for their role in spearheading the referendum. They are in prison without bail pending the outcome of the investigation.

Spanish media reported 30 October 2017 that ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had left for asylum in Belgium together with five other members of his deposed administration. Spain's state prosecutor, Attorney-General Jose Manuel Maza, called for charges of rebellion and sedition, as well as fraud and misuse of funds, to be brought against Catalan leaders. A call for widespread civil disobedience from the main civic groups behind the secessionist campaign failed to attract many followers. Spain's direct rule over Catalonia took hold on as state employees turned up for work despite calls for disobedience. Pro-independence parties - PdeCat (Catalan Democratic Party) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Catalan Republican Left) - said they would contest the 21 December 2017 election [which they were expected to lose], evidently accepting that the regional government had been deposed.

A Sigma Dos survey published in El Mundo showed 33.5% Catalans were in favor of independence while a Metroscopia poll published by El Pais put that number at 29%. This compared to 41.1% in July according to an official survey carried out by the Catalan government. Opponents of secession largely boycotted the October 1 referendum, when participants voted overwhelmingly for independence on turnout of 43%.

Ousted Catalan leader Charles Puigdemont, together with four former ministers, surrendered to Belgian officials 05 November 2017. "This morning the five people wanted by Spain presented themselves to police in Brussels. Warrants for their arrest on a crimes of sedition, rebellion, and embezzlement had followed the Catalan politicians. They were put into custody at 9:17 this morning," acting spokesman for the Brussels' prosecutors, Gilles Dejemeppe, said in a news conference of the ex-ministers. Dejemeppe went on to say the judge will hear from defendants later this afternoon and will announce his decision concerning their future tomorrow.

According to the official, if the judge chooses to comply with Spain’s request for extradition, the ministers will be imprisoned during the process, which could take over 60 days. During this time, Puigdemont has the right to appeal for his released and if the prosecutor opts for a warrant, the proceedings could be extended another 30 days. A time period of that length could potentially allow the Catalan president to participate in the regional elections set for 21 December 2017.

Puigdemont still had a good chance to be placed as candidate and, unless he’s convicted of a crime, the politician has the right to run in the election, Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vido said. Hours after Puigdemont turned himself in, he was nominated by his party as its candidate for the 21 December 2017 regional election.

Catalan pro-independence parties ERC, PDECat and CUP could win 66 to 69 seats between them in Catalonia's parliament in the December vote, thus gaining more votes than other viable blocs but possibly falling just short of an absolute majority, according an opinion poll published in La Vanguardia on 05 November 2017. An absolute majority in the parliament would be 68 seats. Another poll published by the conservative La Razon daily showed the three separatist parties securing just 65 seats. The La Vanguardia poll, showed the conservative Popular Party of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the centrist Ciudadanos and Catalonia's Socialist Party together winning 44 percent. It predicted the remaining 10 percent would go to Catalunya en Comu, which opposes independence but supports holding a legal referendum on the issue.



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