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Political crisis: Catalonia declares independence as Spain contemplates further crackdowns

People gathered to celebrate Catalonia's independence on Friday at the Sant Jaume square in Barcelona. But Spain pushed back, and announced that the Catalan Parliament had been dissolved and new elections would be held in December. (Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images)

The Catalan government voted 70-10 on Friday to declare independence from Spain, but less than an hour later, the Spanish government pushed back, announcing the Catalan Parliament had been dissolved and new elections would be held on Dec. 21.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters that the government would respond in a "proportionate" way.

"Spain is a serious country, a great nation and we will not allow some people to blow up our Constitution," he said. "The government will make any decisions needed to go back to legality, and we will do that this evening."

How did this political crisis develop?

  • On Oct. 1, Catalonia held an independence referendum, which the Spanish courts ruled was illegal.
  • Regardless, 2 million people showed up to vote and hundreds were injured by Spanish police physically dragging them from polling locations.
  • On Oct. 5, the Constitutional Courts in Spain suspended a parliamentary meeting designed to declare independence.
  • On Oct. 10, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said Catalonia had won the right to independence but did not declare formal independence.
  • On Oct. 21, after Puigdemont missed two deadlines from Madrid requesting him to acknowledge whether the region was declaring formal independence, Rajoy activated Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which gives Madrid the ability to dissolve the Catalan government, seize control of the region, and arrange for a new election.
  • On Friday, after the Catalan Parliament voted by overwhelming margins to declare independence, the Spanish Senate voted to pass Article 155, which officially sets it in motion.

What happens in Catalonia now?

  • Since Article 155 has been set into motion, Madrid officials will take over the Catalan government and impose direct rule until elections are held.
  • Spain's general prosecutor also announced they would be filing a lawsuit against Puigdemont for rebellion.
  • EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani said Friday that Catalonia's move was “a breach of the rule of law. No one in the European Union will recognize this declaration.”
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