Spanish Government Ultimatum to Catalonia: 5 days to clarify if Independence Declared or Not
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, had sown “deliberate confusion” in his latest speech and gave him until Monday morning to respond. Pending that reply, Rajoy said he was initiating a request to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would allow Madrid to suspend the region’s administration.
The Spanish government's response to the "suspended" unilateral declaration of independence pronounced by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday came in less than 24 hours.
After an intense session in the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has decided to communicate to the Catalan president that he has until Monday to clarify if he really declared independence, and if so, he asks him to rectify before next Thursday, or its government would initiate a request to invoke article 155 of the Constitution, which implies the abolition of the main autonomous regional powers of Catalonia, and the consequent call of regional elections.
"Communicate in a reliable way to the Government of the Nation, the full compliance of this requirement of both the government of the Generalitat and the Parliament of Catalonia before 10:00 hours on October 19," says the official document sent to the president of the Generalitat, to which media like La Vanguardia had access.
The "supposed" unilateral declaration of independence of Catalonia came on Tuesday afternoon, ten days after the controversial referendum on independence on October 1, which the central government considers illegal. In spite of the brutal police charge ordered by Madrid to stop the referendum - more than 700 people who protected the polling stations were injured under police batons, according to the Catalan government - the referendum was finllay carried out, albeit with irregularities (police confiscated some urns and the census system was hacked on several occasions). The plebiscite had a participation of 42% of the population and "Yes" won with 90% of the votes.
Despite the irregularities and the low participation, the Catalan Parliament considers the results valid, so Puigdemont, following the Transitoriety Law approved by a majority in the Catalan Parliament last month - announced that Catalunya had won the right to be an independent state of Spain in the form of Republic. Shortly afterwards, he announced that he suspended this unilateral declaration of independence for "a few weeks" to give a chance for dialogue with Madrid through international mediators.
Catalonia has been asking the central government for more fiscal autonomy for the region for more than ten years, without success. The constant refusal of Madrid to give in to the requests of Catalonia has aroused the separatist anxiety and for the last six years thousands of Catalan people have asked for the right to a legal referendum. The central government clings to the idea that a referendum on self-determination is unconstitutional.
In this way, the Spanish government has rejected any option of dialogue with the Catalan government until President Puigdemont "returns to the field of law" and rectifies the declaration of independence in the next five days.
On the other hand, President Rajoy has hinted at the possibility of creating a commission to study the reform of the Constitution, in which it would be possible to negotiate the territorial distribution of powers in Spain, together with the Socialist Party, PSOE, its eternal rival. Rajoy proposed to the other parties, nationalists or not, to join this commission, provided that the right to self-determination of Catalonia or the drafting of a referendum are outside the negotiating table.
On Tuesday, during his speech before the Catalan Parliament, Puigdemont specified that he was open to dialogue with Madrid, but without conditions of any kind.
We will see what happens in the next few days. Ironically, today, Thursday, October 12, Spain will celebrate the day of Hispanidad. In Catalunya, one of the posters that can be seen on the streets when 12 October is around the corner, reads, in Catalan "12Oct: res to celebrate" (12 October, nothing to celebrate).