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Pro-independence supporters react as they watch a big screen and wait for the address of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont outside the Parliament of Catalunyaon October 10, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.
The game of cat and mouse between Spain and Catalonia continued Wednesday with Spain’s prime minister demanding clarity from the Catalan government over whether it has actually declared independence or not.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a televised address Wednesday morning that he required clarity on the matter “before any other measure that could be taken under Article 155 of the constitution” hinting at using the so-called “nuclear option” in the Spanish government’s arsenal.
Article 155 would effectively see Rajoy sacking the Catalan government and prompting fresh regional elections.
Catalonia’s leader made an ambiguous statement on Tuesday in which he signed a declaration of independence but asked the Catalan parliament to suspend the results of the disputed referendum vote on October 1, calling for dialogue with Spain. The statement had effectively put the ball in the Spanish government’s court over what would happen next in the political impasse.
But Rajoy’s response on Wednesday forces Catalonia’s leadership to be clear on its position and intentions.
Amid the current war of words, the crisis has been stalled rather than resolved, strategists noted.
In a widely-anticipated speech, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont told the regional parliament that the people of Catalonia had won the right to independence following the symbolic referendum vote on October 1.
However, he asked the regional parliament to suspend the majority “yes” vote in favor of independence and called for dialogue with the Spanish government, adding that the current relationship between Catalonia and the Spanish government was unsustainable.
The Spanish parliament is now expected to discuss the Catalonia crisis on Wednesday afternoon and there is speculation over how it will respond to Puigdemont’s call for dialogue, having previously said it would only talk when the Catalan government adhered to the rule of law and order.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has not made a public statement following Puigdemont’s address, but Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria responded to the separatist leader’s statement by saying that “neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim… to impose mediation. Any dialogue between democrats has to take place within the law.”
Rajoy is expected to address parliament Wednesday afternoon, an address that will be closely watched to see how he and the Spanish government will respond to Catalonia.
Following the unofficial independence referendum on October 1, in which 90 percent of Catalans voted for independence for Spain, although turnout was low, tensions have risen between the national and regional governments and several large Catalan businesses have said they would relocate out of Catalonia in the face of uncertainty.