The Catalan President issued a Declaration of Independence on Tuesday, Oct, 10. Catalan is a region of Spain that has historically tried to be either independent or autonomous. Starting in 1850, many political groups within the Catalan region demanded independence from the rest of Spain. In 1932, Catalan finally had enough political influence to declare its independence, only to negotiate for a statute of autonomy, allowing Catalan to have a separate government while still being within the kingdom of Spain. In 1938, with the rise of the fascist Francisco Franco, Catalan’s autonomy was revoked and the region remained under Spanish rule until 1979 when the new democratic constitution of Spain, following Franco’s death, granted it autonomy once again.
In 2013, the government of Catalan issued a statement regarding the Right to Decide of the Catalan People, as well as a declaration of sovereignty. The Spanish constitutional court ruled the declaration of sovereignty unconstitutional but allowed the right to decide. The leaders of Catalan declared a referendum vote for Sept. 9, 2014, and while the vote results were 88% for independence, voter turnout was only 43%, and the Spanish government threatened criminal charges for the Catalan leaders since the vote was not approved.
In January 2016, Charles Puigdemont was inaugurated as the president of Catalan, which was allowed under the statute of autonomy, but he was the first president of Catalan to omit the oath to the Spanish Constitution and loyalty to the king while being sworn in. He announced in late 2016 that a vote for independence would take place in fall 2017, and in July 2017 set the official vote date for October 1st of this year. The Spanish government responded that the vote would not take place, as it was illegal. The vote occurred in spite of Spanish opposition, with police confiscating ballot boxes, stopping voters from entering voting locations, and taking down websites with voting information.
The vote, which asked simply “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?” resulted in 92% votes in support of independence, and prompted President Puigdemont to issue a declaration of independence on Oct. 10, only to immediately suspend the declaration in hopes to open talks with Madrid, to discuss the future of the region. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s response came Wednesday morning, demanding clarification as to whether or not Catalan had actually declared independence, rather than addressing the request for negotiations.
The Spanish constitution has an article, article 155, that would allow for the government of Spain to entirely dissolve the autonomous government of Catalan. This could result in military action if the Catalan government resists.
On Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy gave Puigdemont an ultimatum: he had to clarify Catalan’s position by Monday, October 16, and in the event the clarification was independence, Spain would grant three more days until Thursday, October 19 during which Catalan could consider its position.