8 Oct 2017

Catalan independence 'will lead to nothing'

4:05 pm on 8 October 2017

A declaration of independence by Catalonia will have no effect, the Spanish Prime Minister says.

Protesters gather holding Spanish flags during a demonstration against independence of Catalonia.

Protesters gather holding Spanish flags during a demonstration against independence of Catalonia. Photo: AFP

A Catalonia independence movement held a referendum at the beginning of this month, in defiance of the Spanish government and a court ruling. Independence proponents argue the region won the referendum and the right to split from Spain, there were clashes with police and tens of thousands of people gathered at political rallies.

The demonstrations were in response to last Sunday's disputed referendum on Catalan independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Marian Rajoy warned the region a declaration of independence will not hold, adding that he was not ruling out suspending the region's autonomy.

The final results from the wealthy northeastern region showed 90 percent of the 2.3 million people who voted backed independence. Turnout was 43 percent.

There have been several claims of irregularities, and many ballot boxes were seized by Spanish police.

Nearly 900 people were injured as the police, trying to enforce a Spanish court ban on the vote, attempted to disperse voters.

Thirty-three police officers were also hurt.

In the El Pais interview, Mr Rajoy said:

"The government will ensure that any declaration of independence will lead to nothing."

Asked whether he was prepared to invoke Article 155 of Spain's constitution, which allows the national parliament to intervene in the running of an autonomous region, Mr Rajoy said: "I don't rule out absolutely anything that is within the law."

The prime minister also said he planned to keep extra police deployed to Catalonia until the crisis was over. And he said that he would not call early national elections because of the growing political crisis.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is expected to address the regional parliament on Tuesday after Spain's Constitutional Court earlier suspended the Catalan parliament session planned for Monday.

There is speculation that the parliament will declare independence unilaterally at its next sitting.

Meanwhile, the former leader of Catalonia, Artur Mas, told the Financial Times newspaper that the region was not yet ready for real independence - even though he believed it had won the right to break away.

On Saturday, thousands of people calling for Spanish unity attended rallies in the capital Madrid.

Other demonstrations - including in the Catalan city Barcelona - have also been held urging political dialogue.

Protesters dressed in white gathered with signs saying 'Spain is better than its leaders' and 'Let's talk'.


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