Catalan crisis: Regional MPs debate Spain takeover bid

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Media captionStudents with Catalan flags chanted “independence”.

Backers and opponents of independence in Catalonia have clashed in parliament over the way forward as the Spanish government is set to reassert control.

The debate came a day before Spain’s Senate is expected to approve a plan to curtail some of the region’s autonomous powers following October’s referendum.

These include removing leader Carles Puigdemont and curtailing the parliament’s powers.

It was decided under Article 155 of the constitution, which allows direct rule.

Mr Puigdemont declared independence after the 1 October referendum, which was ruled illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. But the Catalan leader immediately suspended implementation, calling for talks.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.

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Carles Puigdemont (right) has been under pressure not to call a snap election

Many people gathered in Barcelona on Thursday hoping Mr Puigdemont would declare independence. But there has also been speculation that he might call regional elections in a effort to avoid rule from Madrid.

However Mr Puigdemont did neither. “I have been prepared to call elections, as long as guarantees are given,” he said.

He added that Spain’s governing Popular Party had not given such assurances – without giving any details.

How did the parliamentary debate unfold?

During Thursday’s parliamentary session in Barcelona, a government spokesman said a proposal to implement the results of a referendum on independence would be submitted to lawmakers on Friday.

Hard-line separatists called for a declaration independence. “We will continue on the path to a Catalan republic,” an MP for the far-left CUP, which provides key support for the pro-independence governing coalition.

Catalan crisis: Regional MPs debate Spain takeover bid p05kzkyg

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Media captionA Catalan government representative and a Spanish government minister fail to see eye to eye in a BBC interview

But Ines Arrimadas, leader of the anti-independence Citizens’s party, accused Mr Puigdemont of missing countless opportunities to resolve the crisis through negotiation.

“You still have time to return to legality and call elections,” she said.

Collision course

Analysis by James Reynolds, BBC News, Barcelona

Spain’s profound constitutional crisis in four decades of democracy is currently working its way through two competing parliaments.

The country’s Senate in Madrid is getting ready to approve emergency powers for the central government.

Pro-independence members of the Catalan regional parliament believe that they must do something to counter any moves made in Madrid. Some parliamentarians want to go ahead and make an unequivocal unilateral declaration of Catalan independence.

Pro-independence campaign groups have called for demonstrations outside the parliament building in the morning.

How did the Spanish government respond?

Reacting to Mr Puigdemont’s statement on Thursday, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria defended her government’s handling of the crisis.

She said the Spanish model was “one of the most decentralised in the world”.

She added: “We’ve always shown our sincere desire to collaborate. The pro-independence camp have made it clear they don’t want dialogue.”

What happens now?

The parliamentary session in Barcelona is now suspended, and will resume on Friday morning. It is expected to vote on whether to declare unilateral independence or not.

Also on Friday the Senate is due to hold a vote on the government’s plan to trigger Article 155.

Under the proposals announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy this week, Mr Puigdemont would be removed and new regional elections held. Madrid would take control of Catalonia’s finances, police and public media.

Mr Rajoy’s centre-right government has a majority in the Senate. The plan has also been approved by opposition parties.

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