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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 19 March, 2018

Catalan leader cancels - then re-arranges - speech, says he won't call elections to ease crisis

Carles Puigdemont said there were no “guarantees” in place “to justify calling elections today”.

Puigdemont making the statement today
Puigdemont making the statement today
Image: Emilio Morenatti AP/PA Images

CATALONIA’S LEADER SAID today that he would not call elections to ease a standoff with Madrid over an independence push, leaving it up to the regional parliament to respond to the central government’s planned seizure of Catalan powers.

Carles Puigdemont said in a televised statement – which had been initially cancelled but then hastily re-arranged – it had been his “duty” to find a negotiated solution to the crisis “to avoid the impact on our institutions of the implementation of Article 155″.

He was referring to a never-before-used article in the constitution designed to rein in rebel regions, under which Madrid plans to take over Catalan political power and finances in a bid to stop the region’s breaking away after an outlawed independence referendum.

Many had considered early elections – instead of a unilateral declaration of independence – as a way to avoid these drastic measures taking effect and ease the crisis that has pitted Catalonia’s separatist leaders against the central government.

But Puigdemont said there were no “guarantees” in place “to justify calling elections today”.

He added that it was now “up to the (regional) parliament,” which is expected to meet later today, to decide how to respond to the central government’s planned takeover.

Separatist lawmakers hold an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament, and many favour a declaration of independence.

Speaking just after Puigdemont, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria retorted that with the power seizure, the central government wanted “to open a new stage in which the law is respected”.

© AFP 2017

Read: Barcelona is the most visited city in Spain but tourism is falling amid images of unrest

Read: 450,000 protest in Barcelona as Catalan leader claims Spanish government is ‘acting like Franco’

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