Barcelona – Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont will not address a session at the Spanish Senate in which members will decide whether to place the independence-seeking region under direct state rule, his spokesperson has confirmed.
Senate members will vote on Friday on whether to trigger Article 155 of Spain’s constitution, allowing the central government in Madrid to directly administer Catalonia in the wake of a banned referendum earlier this month.
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“[Puigdemont] is not going,” Joan Maria Pique, international press secretary for the Catalan president, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, in contrast to earlier reports suggesting that he was considering speaking at the session.
Earlier in the day, Carme Forcadell, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, had also told reporters that Puigdemont would not attend the debate at the Senate.
The Catalan president will hold instead a plenary to ratify a response to Article 155.
Prospect of elections
More than 2.3 million Catalans took part in the referendum – a turnout of 42 percent. The Catalan government says 90 percent voted for independence, though many were blocked from voting by police raids and others abstained.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday announced plans to enact the previously untapped Article 155 and dissolve the Catalan government.
The article, which is only two short paragraphs, requires an absolute majority in the Senate to support the motion and leaving much discretion regarding its implementation up to the government.
Rajoy has stated his desire to hold elections in Catalonia within a month of ratifying Article 155.
This is becoming a point of difficulty for the prime minister, who heads a minority government and needs the support of the centre-left Socialist party (PSOE) to pass Article 155.
Reports suggest Puigdemont, who also leads a minority regional government, is facing calls to hold elections.
Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, of ERC, and former Catalan president Artur Mas of Puigdemont’s Catalan Democratic Party left the government headquarters in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter after talks were held on Wednesday.
Members of the far-left, pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, whose consent is required for Puigdemont to continue as head of the Catalan government, said there were three options on the table: to declare independence; to declare independence with a scheduled vote after; or hold an election before independence is declared.
Talk of calling an election in Catalonia prior to a declaration of independence is rattling support for Rajoy’s initiative.
PSOE spokesperson Margarita Roble said if “elections are called in the constitutional order, there is no reason to apply Article 155”.
However, others would prefer the declaration of an independent Catalan republic.
“We must organise ourselves to pressure and proclaim the republic, but also to resist Article 155,” Eulalia Reguant. Barcelona’s deputy mayor and CUP member told Catalan news site, Ara.
“The measure to defend [Catalonia] from 155 is the proclamation of the republic,” she said.