Spanish PM urges Catalans to vote separatists out of office

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 November, 2017, 10:05pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 November, 2017, 10:34pm

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has urged Catalans to oust separatists from their regional parliament in an early election he has called for December 21.

Rajoy has told members of his conservative Popular Party in Barcelona that “we want a massive turnout to open up a new period of normalcy”.

Rajoy’s visit to Catalonia’s main city was his first to the northeastern region since he used extraordinary powers to stifle its secession push. After Catalonia’s parliament voted on October 27 in favour of a declaration of independence, Rajoy responded by firing its government, dissolving its parliament and calling the early election.

Rajoy defended his decision to temporarily take over running the region under the Constitution, which allows central authorities to intervene in regions whose officials have gone outside the law. Catalonia’s separatists, and even some moderates, have criticised the measures as heavy-handed.

“Exceptional measures can only be taken when there is no other option, and we adopted them to stop the increasing attacks to peaceful coexistence” in Catalonia, Rajoy said. “For centuries, centuries, Catalonia and Spain have built a country that is multicultural and diverse, and the separatists won’t be allowed to break the ties that bind us.”

Apart from the Catalonia government takeover, a judge has jailed 10 separatist leaders while investigating their roles in promoting secession. Catalonia’s deposed president and four former members of his Cabinet have fled to Brussels where they will fight extradition.

Rajoy also urged businesses not to abandon Catalonia after hundreds of firms moved their legal headquarters away as uncertainty over the region’s independence drive drags on.

“We have to recover the sensible, practical, enterprising and dynamic Catalonia … that has contributed so much to the progress of Spain and Europe,” Rajoy told party members.

Catalonia’s independence crisis has pushed more than 2,400 firms to re-register their legal headquarters outside the wealthy northeastern region.

The International Monetary Fund last month warned that Catalonia could face recession were the uncertainty over secession to linger.

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans flooded Barcelona on Saturday to demand the release of dismissed regional lawmakers who were detained on the orders of a national judge over their independence bid.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press