After a lengthy history lesson on the independence campaign, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont yesterday switched from Catalan to Spanish to announce that Catalonia had won the right to independence but that he wants a negotiated solution with Madrid.
“Catalonia has earned the right to be an independent state and the right to be heard,” Puigdemont said. “The ballots boxes said yes to independence, and this is the only language we understand.
I assume the mandate for Catalonia to become an independent State in the form of a republic,” he added, to a lengthy round of applause from the chamber.
Puigdemont said any declaration of independence would be suspended until a solution could be agreed. No definite date was given, but he called for several weeks of dialogue. He asked the regional parliament in Barcelona to suspend the effect of the vote so talks could begin rather than breaking away immediately. A vote on 1 October resulted in almost 90% of voters backing independence, Catalan officials say.
Madrid said it was illegal and Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended it. No voters largely boycotted the referendum ballot which had a reported turnout of 43% and there were several reports of irregularities.
National police were involved in violent scenes as they manhandled voters. Puigdemont told the regional parliament that the “people’s will” was to break away from Madrid, but he also said he wanted to “de-escalate” the tension around the issue .
He hailed the referendum process and condemned the actions of the Spanish government, but acknowledged that people on all sides were worried about what would happen next. “We are all part of the same community and we need to go forward together. The only way forward is democracy and peace,” he told deputies.
But he also said Catalonia was being denied the right to self-determination, and paying too much in taxes to the central government in Madrid. Catalan police have been posted outside the parliament in Barcelona, sealing off the grounds to the public. A large pro-independence rally is currently taking place in the area.