The leader of Catalonia has decided against calling a parliamentary election that might have defused tension with the Spanish government.
Carles Puigdemont said he considered calling a snap election, but was choosing not to because he did not receive enough guarantees that the central government’s “abusive” moves to take control of Catalonia would be suspended.
In a hastily called address from his palace in Barcelona, the separatist leader said the regional parliament will decide how to respond to the takeover plan.
The unprecedented measures are set to be approved today in Madrid and will lead to the first direct intervention by central authorities in the affairs of one of the country’s 17 autonomous regions.
Spain’s conservative government had offered to halt the extraordinary measures if a new election was called in Catalonia, but recently backtracked on that.
Sr Puigdemont said: “Consequently I can’t organise parliamentary elections. There is no guarantee that justifies elections.”
He said it is now up to the existing regional parliament to determine how to respond to the Spanish government’s plan to take over significant powers from the region.
Regional legislators convened shortly after he announced his decision on the election.
“Peace and civism must remain,” Sr Puigdemont said. “Only this way, we will be able to win.”
Earlier on Thursday, two parliamentary officials told the Associated Press that Sr Puigdemont had offered through mediators to call the election if the central government dropped the takeover bid, but that prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s ruling Partido Popular refused.
It was not clear that an election would have solved Spain’s problems with Catalonia, as polls consistently show pro-independence parties would probably win the most seats again.
Catalonia’s independence bid has led to Spain’s deepest political crisis in the four decades since the country restored democratic rule after General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.
The government of Catalonia, a prosperous region of 7.5 million people, has been in a heated political battle with the Spanish government since it scheduled a disputed referendum on independence.
Those who voted on October 1 were overwhelmingly in favour, but less than half of eligible voters went to the polls in a vote that had been outlawed by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Sr Puigdemont insists the referendum gave him the mandate to declare independence, but he has stopped short of proclaiming a new republic, saying he wants to give the Spanish government a chance to negotiate.