The Catalan regional parliament voted for independence from Spain on Friday by approving a resolution to convene a constitutional assembly to form a sovereign republic. The move was accompanied by applause and embraces between lawmakers present, who sang the Catalan anthem.
The resolution to secede from Spain was drafted and presented by the more radical separatist factions of the regional coalition headed by Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont, and it passed by 72 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 blank votes.
Spain’s ruling center-right Popular Party and the mainstream opposition socialists, who hold just under half the seats in the Catalan parliament, boycotted the session.
Friday’s resolution by the Catalan regional parliament ends a period of uncertainty over Catalan independence that has prevailed since an October 1 referendum on independence that won 90 percent of the vote in a 50 percent voter turnout.
Puigdemont has held back from declaring independence for fear of triggering direct rule by the central government, which has been moving to take over the region’s finances, police services, and key infrastructure and administrative bodies.
“It was very astute on the part of Puigdemont to let parliament vote on independence resolution prior to declaring it, as it gives him certain legal cover,” a former senior member of the Spanish parliament told VOA.
Puigdemont could face a 25-year prison sentence for sedition. The central government already has jailed two separatist leaders and is prosecuting other officials accused of using public resources to support the independence bid.
Spain’s Senate responded to Catalonia’s independence move by approving the application of constitutional article 155, which officially authorizes the central government to suspend Catalan authorities and take over the region’s administration.
“The turn of events … has left us with no recourse but the application of constitutional prerogatives to reinstitute the legal order in Catalonia,” said Spain’s senate president.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appealed for national “calm” and called together a special cabinet meeting for later Friday.
“The government will take whatever measures are necessary. We will not allow a group of people to liquidate the country,” he told reporters.
Puigdemont, accompanied by other members of the Catalan regional government, lawmakers and hundreds of mayors, crowded onto the steps of the parliament building to address thousands of supporters gathering outside, shouting “liberty.”
In a short speech, Puigdemont said, “We ourselves must now form our own structures and our own society.”