Former 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.
Spanish media reported Monday 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 favour 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%.
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 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.
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.
In a statement released on Thursday, 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.
Catalan authorities must drop a bid for independence by Thursday 19 October 2017, the Spanish government said Monday 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.
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.
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.
Catalonia is Spain’s Scotland. Catalonia regularly provides more revenue to the central government than it receives in services. The current separatist movement in Catalonia has its foundations in injustices perpetrated during the 1939-75 dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The dictator stripped the region of the powers it had been granted during Spain's 1931-36 Second Republic, and even banned public use of the Catalan language. After Franco's death in 1975, Catalonia was granted wide self-governance in areas such as health and education. However, in recent years, the push for independence has been given added impetus by Spain's lackluster economy.
The Estatut (Statute) governing relations between Catalonia and Madrid was approved via referendum in 2006. The Estatut granted increased powers to the Generalitat, including its own police force. It was, however, immediately challenged by the conservative Popular Party in the Constitutional Tribunal (TC), Spain's highest constitutional authority. In 2010 the Counrt accepted some of the charter, but rejeted parts of the statute that broadened the Catalan government's powers. The Court also said Catalonia cannot be defined as a "nation," and the Catalan language cannot be legally preferable.
While the vast majority of Catalans do not want independence, they do want respect from the rest of Spain. They want recognition of the importance of the region in the Spanish context - that they pay more into the system than they get out of it, that they are, at least in their own minds, the hardest working, most productive, and most efficient. They want acceptance of Catalonia as a people with a different "story", much like the Basques or the Galicians, that make them unique in Spain.
A minority of Catalans want independence, but a majority support 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 say 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.
Spain is in no position to service her national debt unless, on leaving, Catalonia takes over a portion. Key countries face a heavy exposure to that national debt. A Spanish default and exit from the euro would threaten the very survival of the EU's common currency.
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 Sunday's 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 told Reuters 29 September 2017.
Spain's central government, bolstered by a Constitutional Court ruling declaring the referendum invalid, has 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.
Political Parties in Catalonia - December 2016
Catalonia - Political Parties
Catalan politics differ markedly from the rest of Spain, a product of the strong Catalan national spirit that has seen a resurgence in the past three decades of democracy. Still, despite this deep-seated nationalism, less than a third of Catalans support full independence from Spain. In Barcelona, the beating heart of Catalan politics and economy, support is even lower. It is difficult to imagine Spain without Catalonia and impossible to imagine Catalonia without Barcelona.
The leaders of the Socialist Party of Catalan (PSC), Republican Left of Catalan (ERC), and the Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), the three-party coalition (Tripartite), which had governed Catalonia since 2003, agreed in principal 04 November 2006 to reprise their oft-fractious partnership and form the next autonomous regional government.
Based on the election results of September 2015, there were seven different political parties or coalitions represented in the Parliament of Catalonia and the 135 seats are distributed as follows.
- Junts pel Sí (a coalition of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya and Partit Demòcrata Europeu de Catalunya, independents and other smaller parties) - 62 seats
- Ciutadans - Partido de la Ciudadania (C's) - 25 seats
- Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC) - 16 seats
- Catalunya Sí Que Es Pot (a coalition of Podemos and ICV-EUiA) - 11 seats
- Partit Popular Català (PP) - 11 seats
- Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP) - 10 seats
The "Together for Yes" alliance won 62 of the 135 seats in parliament in September 2015, a victory that was seen as a huge step for the region, which has long sought independence from Madrid. In October 2015, the alliance filed a bill that would open the door to secession, prompting conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to issue a stern warning on television. Mas's government needed the support of the far-left CUP party, which won 10 seats in the elections. However, the CUP declined to back the leader, due largely to his austerity policies and various corruption scandals that have been linked to him.
Catalan separatists struck an eleventh-hour deal 09 January 2016 to form a regional government that will work towards independence from Spain. The agreement required controversial secessionist leader Artur Mas to step aside. Carles Puigdemont was chosen to take over from Artur Mas as the Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) alliance's candidate to be regional government leader. Mas, who has presided over the regional government since 2010, said he was backing Puigdemont, mayor of the Catalan region of Girona, as his successor.
Carles Puigdemont proceeded with the separatist course of his predecessor Artur Mas. A referendum on independence was already envisaged for November 9, 2014. The first question was "Do you want Catalonia to become a state?" In the case of an affirmative answer, the second question was posed: "Do you want this state to be independent?" However, the Constitutional Court suspended the vote.
Substantial policy differences between the PSC and the PSOE emerged in 2008 as the Catalans refused to follow PSOE's sharp turn to the left. This new push to claim the center reflects the unusual electoral situation for the PSC, which does not battle for votes with the Popular Party of Catalonia (PPC), but with nationalist, center-right coalition Convergence and Union (CiU). At their party convention the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), the majority party of CiU, emphasized a "big tent" form of nationalism that seeks to welcome the entire nationalist spectrum, from moderates who favor the status quo to those who favor outright independence.
The Republican Left (ERC), the other independence party, one of PSC's coalition partners in the tripartite government (Govern), attempted to address why it has lost so many votes since 2006. The ultimate winner of a four-way presidential race ran on a "stay the course" platform, but with a bare plurality, new president Joan Puigcercos will not lead with a mandate and will have to carefully balance the demands of the ERC's partners and his intra-party critics.
At its party congress in the summer of 2008, the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC), long accused by the nationalist parties of putting PSOE ahead of Catalonia, struck an independent tone from the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) in hopes of shoring up support. On the ideological front, the PSC's centrist move was mainly intended to seize the center from CiU. In their platform, the PSC did not call for wider access to abortion, support for euthanasia, nor removal of religious symbols from official ceremonies and schools, which were all moves PSOE made just weeks before.
However, this was not just a political move, as historically the PSC has had a less confrontational attitude with the Catholic Church in Catalonia than PSOE does with the wider Spanish Church. This difference is attributed to the close relationship the Catalan Socialists have with the progressive sections of the Catalan Church, which date back to the Franco era, as well as the overall reputation for moderation that the Catalan bishops have.
Vowing that they would aggressively pursue a fairer financing scheme for Catalonia, the PSC seeks to neutralize one of CiU's most effective weapons against them. At the same time, however, the PSC realizes that they must balance demands from PSOE and Catalonia. Although the PSC is technically an independent party, it has sat with PSOE in the same parliamentary group in the Congress of Deputies. While some sections of the party seek for it to have its own group, the leadership realizes that this, and other 'separatist' actions can damage both parties.
If PSC completely broke away, PSOE would have to form a Catalan federation of its own, the way it operates in the rest of Spain, and something it has not had since 1978. This would most likely lead to the defeat of both parties at the national and regional levels.
The leftist, independence party, the ERC scored surprising electoral victories in the early part of the new century, enabling it to join the PSC-led coalition in the Govern in 2003 and 2006. Since then, however, the ERC suffered a large drop in votes, going from 8 seats to 3 in the Congress of Deputies after the March 2008 elections. After this defeat, party president, Josep Lluis Carod Rovira resigned that office, though he remained Vice President of the Generalitat. The internal struggle to replace him was a proxy battle over the future direction of a party seeking to regain its popularity.
CDC, the majority party of CiU, focused on recovering the presidency of the Generalitat since they were unable to win a majority in 2006. CDC's convention in the summer of 2008 underlined a party strategy that will mostly continue its current policies with minor adjustments. Among these slight tweaks was the adoption of party leader Artur Mas's pet project of "the great house Catalan-ism" (la casa gran del catalanisme). It is an attempt to make the party appear more welcoming of the different strands of Catalan nationalism, thus trying to expand its electorate and regaining a majority in the Generalitat. The party's platform does not explicitly call for independence, though it does emphasize Catalonia's right to self-determination and vaguely foresees Catalonia as a free and sovereign state in 21st century Europe.
In a perennial move, in 2008 the CDC reiterated its desire to completely merge with rightist Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC) into a single party, which UDC, again, flatly refused.
The PPC, the Popular Party's Catalan subsidiary, was plagued by the same problems faced by the national party: unpopular leaders pushing unpopular ideas. For example, party members arrived at their 2008 convention to find that national PP president, Mariano Rajoy, had unilaterally imposed a last-minute candidate for PPC president, Alicia Sanchez-Camacho, a senator from Girona. Rajoy also dispatched the new PP Secretary for Organization, Ana Mato to persuade the other candidates, bitter rivals Alberto Fernanez-Dmaz and Daniel Sirera to drop their bids. Still, a fourth candidate, Montserrat Nebrera, refused to end her candidacy, and in the final vote, lost to Sanchez-Camacho by a slim 53%-47% vote.
Still, unpopular leaders were not the PPC's only obstacle to winning elections. In 2006, the PP opposed the Estatut for the complete opposite reason as the ERC; they claimed it gave too much autonomy to Catalonia. This is but one instance in which the PP was thought by most Catalans to be working against Catalonia's interests. In a region dominated by fervent nationalists, undermining Catalonia is hardly a winning strategy. If the entire goal of a political party is to win elections, the PPC has to drastically reform the way it does business if it ever hopes to govern Catalonia.
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