Catalan crisis deepens as leader rules out snap polls

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says he had not obtained enough guarantees that a snap election would stop Spain's direct rule in Catalonia.

MADRID • Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has ruled out holding a snap regional election to break the deadlock between the central government and separatists seeking a split from Spain, sharpening the political crisis.

He had been expected to announce an election in order to counter Madrid's moves to take direct control of autonomous Catalonia.

But, speaking in the courtyard of the regional government headquarters in Barcelona yesterday, Mr Puigdemont said he had not received sufficient guarantees from the central government that holding an election would prevent the imposition of direct rule.

"I was ready to call an election if guarantees were given. There is no guarantee that justifies calling an election today," he said.

Mr Puigdemont said it was now up to the Catalan Parliament to move forward with a mandate to split from Spain following an independence referendum that took place on Oct 1 - an event Madrid had declared illegal and tried to stop.

His stand sets the stage for the Spanish Senate to approve the takeover of Catalonia's institutions and police, and give the government the power to remove the Catalan president.

It was not yet clear whether Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would immediately enforce direct rule or simply seek the Senate's authorisation to do so today but without making it effective on the ground.

But it could also lead to confrontation in the streets as some independence supporters have promised to mount a campaign of civil disobedience.

Thousands of Catalans marched for independence in Barcelona yesterday chanting "independence". One banner read "Puigdemont, traitor".

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, speaking in a televised Senate committee, said: "The independence leaders have shown their true face, they have promised a dream but are performing tricks."

It was not yet clear whether Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would immediately enforce direct rule or simply seek the Senate's authorisation to do so today but without making it effective on the ground.

Exactly how the central government would enforce in practical terms, and how Catalan civil servants and regional police would react, is also uncertain.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'Catalan crisis deepens as leader rules out snap polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe