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escalating quickly

Spain has dissolved the Catalan parliament, removed its leader, and called an election for late December

Earlier, the Catalan parliament voted overwhelmingly to declare independence from Spain and proclaim a new republic.

Spain Catalonia Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy making his statement to dissolve the Catalan parliament Paul White / PA Images Paul White / PA Images / PA Images

Updated 8.10pm

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER Mariano Rajoy says he has dissolved the Catalan parliament and called regional elections for Thursday 21 December under sweeping powers approved by the Senate to stop a secessionist movement in Catalonia.

Rajoy said this evening that he had also formally removed Catalonia’s separatist leader Carles Puigdemont and his executive from office as part of measures to “restore normality” after the Catalan parliament voted to declare independence.

That vote, which occurred earlier today, saw Catalan MPs declaring independence from Spain and proclaiming a republic, with the spectre of Madrid imposing direct rule on the semi-autonomous region to stop it in its tracks.

A motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions.

cata Protesters at a rally outside the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona Emilio Morenatti / AP/Press Association Images Emilio Morenatti / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

Catalan opposition MPs walked out of the 135-seat chamber before the vote in protest at a declaration unlikely to be given official recognition by Madrid and abroad.

Rajoy, meanwhile, vowed to “restore legality” in Catalonia after the vote.

“I ask all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia,” he wrote in a Twitter message immediately after the Catalan assembly voted.

Tens of thousands of independence supporters outside the Catalan parliament cheered with joy after the news broke. Watching proceedings in parliament on two large screens, they clapped and shouted “independence” in Catalan.

© – AFP, 2017

Read: Catalonia crisis: Spain poised to impose direct rule on the region today

Read: Catalan leader cancels – then re-arranges – speech, says he won’t call elections to ease crisis

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