The Catalan independence referendum took place on October 1. 90% of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted chose yes. The turnout was 42.3%, which may signify the fact that those in favor of staying with Spain deemed the vote illegitimate and didn’t vote, as pre-referendum polls have shown a clear 60-40 majority of Catalans in favor of remaining part of Spain. Madrid used police violence in an attempt to prevent the vote. At least 893 people and 33 police were reported to have been hurt during the attempts to stop the vote by the police.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont claimed that the citizens of Catalonia had won the right to an independent state in in the form of a republic. “My government, in the next few days, will send the results of [the] vote to the Catalan parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum,” he said. Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy replied by saying that “there has not been a self-determination referendum in Catalonia.”
Several thousand people gathered outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain’s national police force on October 3 amid strikes in protest of police violence during the referendum. The protest came as a result of several labour unions and pro-independence organizations urging people throughout Catalonia to go on strike, including UGT, CCOO and ANC.
Yet another protest happened with thousands of people on the streets of Barcelona on October 8 in protest against the secession from Spain. The march was organized by the Catalan Civil Society (Societat Civil Catalana), which was supported by political parties in Madrid and which called on people from all over the country to attend the march. “Catalonia belongs to us all, and not just to the nationalists,” said Alex Ramos from the Catalan Civil Society. The demonstration came as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy threatened to take “drastic” measures to maintain the integrity of Spain, including using Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution which allows central government to take control of the governance of a region.
The president of Catalonia on the evening of October 10 put his signature to a document that declared the region’s independence from Spain, but then said the move would not be implemented for several weeks. The move, a significant but largely symbolic act to try to pressure the Spanish government to negotiate over Catalan independence, came shortly after a speech by Puigdemont in which he had seemingly stopped short of the unilateral declaration of independence.
Puigdemont, in a letter on October 16 to Spain’s prime minister, called for more dialogue over the status of the semi-autonomous region, but he failed to meet a demand from Madrid to clarify a declaration of independence or face direct rule. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed a deadline last week for Puigdemont to give a yes or no answer on the question of independence, saying a yes or ambiguous answer would force Madrid to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule.
If Puigdemont doesn’t give a satisfactory reply by October 19 morning, Spain could activate Article 155 of the Constitution, allowing it to strip Catalonia of its self-governance. Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution allows Madrid to impose direct rule in a crisis, but it has never been invoked in democratic Spain. In case it is invoked, the Senate would launch the transfer of powers from Catalonia to Madrid. Madrid may also decide to call new regional official elections.
Some 4,000 national police who were dispatched to Catalonia during the crisis have remained there since polling day.