The president of Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia will address the region’s parliament on Tuesday, just over a week after the region voted to break away from Spain in an unauthorized referendum.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is scheduled to address the regional parliament at 6 p.m. local time (12 p.m. ET), but local officials have declined to say whether the region’s lawmakers will approve a declaration of independence.
Jordi Turull, a spokesman for the regional government, declined to discuss Puigdemont’s speech during a press conference but said the president would be “very clear” in his speech. Asked whether he believed it would be a historic day, the spokesman said: “yes, clearly.”
The central government in Madrid has been bracing for the possibility that Catalonia may try to issue a declaration of independence. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has urged Puigdemont to abandon his plan to do so, saying it would avoid “greater evils.”
Spain’s Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of Monday’s session of the Catalan parliament, which was due to consider the results of the October 1 referendum. As a result, the session was canceled and Puigdemont announced that he would address parliament on Tuesday evening.
It’s unclear how Madrid would respond to a declaration of independence. Sources familiar with the government’s plan told the Bloomberg news agency that Spanish police are ready to arrest Puigdemont if he declares independence, and elite forces are on standby if Catalan police try to shield the region’s leader.
More than 90 percent of ballots cast during the October 1 referendum were in favor of independence, but the vote was declared illegal and turnout was only 43 percent. A police crackdown – in which 893 people were injured – may have decreased turnout as police seized ballot boxes and dispersed voters in an attempt to enforce a court order.
Catalonia has insisted for weeks that it will seek to implement the results of the vote, even though Spain’s constitution requires that a referendum on sovereignty takes place nationally, not regionally. It allows Madrid to suspend the regional government’s authority or, in the worst case, send in security forces.
Catalonia, which has a total population of 7.6 million people, has long sought independence from Spain. Many of its residents feel that the wealthy region contributes far more to the Spanish economy than it gets back through central government funds.
Earlier this year, former Catalan President Artur Mas was fined 36,500 euros ($40,860) and banned from holding public office for 2 years for organizing a non-binding independence referendum in 2014. The conviction and a recent recession led to a renewed push for independence.
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