x

Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Spanish PM, in Catalonia, calls for big turnout at December election

It came as several hundred people rallied in Brussels to back the independence push in Catalonia, slam the European Union and demand Spain release jailed regional officials

Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister and leader of the People's Party, gestures as he speaks during an election campaign event in Barcelona on November 12, 2017. Angel Garcia / Bloomberg
Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister and leader of the People's Party, gestures as he speaks during an election campaign event in Barcelona on November 12, 2017. Angel Garcia / Bloomberg

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy urged Catalans on Sunday to oust separatists from their regional parliament in an early election he has called for December 21.

He told members of his conservative Popular Party in Barcelona that "we want a massive turnout to open up a new period of normalcy".

It came as several hundred people rallied in Brussels to back the independence push in Catalonia, slam the European Union and demand Spain release jailed regional officials.

Mr Rajoy's visit to Barcelona was his first to Catalonia since using his extraordinary powers to stifle the northeastern region's secession push. After the Catalan parliament voted on October 27 in favour of declaring independence, Mr Rajoy responded by firing its government, dissolving its parliament and calling the early election.

Spain's constitution says the nation is "indivisible".

_______________

Read more:

Puigdemont attacks ‘colossal outrage’ of Spanish government crackdown on Catalonia

Dismissed Catalan leader calls for coalition to fight December election

_______________

"It's urgent to return a sense of normality to Catalonia and do so as soon as possible to lower the social and economic tensions," Mr Rajoy said in Barcelona on Sunday. "The threat of the separatists is destructive, sad and agonising. Secessionism has created insecurity and uncertainty."

Polls show a tight race ahead in Catalonia between separatists and those who want the region to remain a part of Spain.

In Brussels, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium, was a no-show at the demonstration that included pro-independence European Parliament members and several members of the exiled regional government.

"Democracy in Spain is not only sick, it is practically dead," Spanish MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras, who backs Catalan independence, told the demonstrators.

"I think that it is absolutely terrible that the European institutions don't understand that when you attack democracy you cannot applaud Rajoy and institutions in Spain that are outside the law."

The protest, which took place just metres from the EU's main institutions, came a day after hundreds of thousands of Catalans in Barcelona protested the jailing of regional officials for their push for independence from Spain.