Rajoy urges voters in Catalonia to defeat separatists

Sheetal Sukhija - Monday 13th November, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain - In what was his first visit to Catalonia's main city, Barcelona since he used the constitutional powers to stifle the secession push led by the regional government, the Spanish Prime Minister urged Catalans to defeat separatists at polls.

On Sunday, Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy urged voters in Catalonia to defeat the separatists who led the region's recent drive for independence when they head to the polls in a planned election next month.

Rajoy used an untapped constitutional authority to call the December 21 regional election.

On Sunday, he told members of his conservative Popular Party at a Barcelona hotel, “We want a massive turnout to open up a new period of normalcy" in Catalonia.

On October 27, Catalonia's Parliament voted in favor of declaring independence, leading to a response by Rajoy, who fired top government officials, dissolved the Parliament and ordered the early election.

Spain's Constitution has said that the nation is "indivisible."

Rajoy said, "It's urgent to return a sense of normality to Catalonia and do so as soon as possible to lower the social and economic tensions. The threat of the separatists is destructive, sad and agonizing. Secessionism has created insecurity and uncertainty."

Recent polls have shown that a tight race between Catalan separatists and politicians who want the region to remain a part of Spain is ahead next month. 

Meanwhile, on Sunday in Brussels, those favoring independence for Catalonia held a rally near the European Union quarter.

Since 2011, Rajoy's party has won three national elections, but secured less than 10 percent of the vote in Catalonia's 2015 regional election.

According to analysts, the Popular Party continues to poll behind several other parties in the region, including the pro-business Citizens and the Socialists, which both oppose secession.

On Sunday, the far-left separatist CUP party decided to participate in the December elections. 

The CUP is one of three pro-secession parties in the region.

During his visit, Rajoy defended his decision to temporarily take over running Catalonia under a section of the Spain Constitution that allows central authorities to intervene in regions where officials act outside the law.

The measures have however been criticized as being heavy-handed by Catalonia's separatists, and even some moderates.

Rajoy argued, "Exceptional measures can only be taken when there is no other option, and we adopted them to stop the increasing attacks to peaceful coexistence.”

So far, apart from the government takeover, ten Catalan separatist leaders have been jailed while their roles in promoting secession are under investigation. 

Catalonia's ousted president and four former members of his Cabinet meanwhile have fled to Brussels and plan to fight extradition to Spain.