Defiant Catalonia lawmakers vote to start secession from Spain

The resolution calls for creating a roadmap for independence by 2017. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy denounced the region's vote as 'an act of provocation.'

Manu Fernandez/AP
Popular Party of Catalonia members show Spanish flags and Catalonia flags at the end of a parliamentary session in Barcelona on Monday. The regional Parliament of northeastern Catalonia has voted to set up a roadmap for independence from Spain by 2017.

In defiance of the central government, Catalonia’s parliament approved a resolution Monday to begin the “democratic disconnection,” or secession, from Spain.

The vote, which took place after two hours of debate, resulted in 72-63 in favor of creating a roadmap for splitting from Spain and its institutional oversight by 2017. The wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia is fiercely proud of its culture and language, and is responsible for one-fifth of the country’s economic output. But many there believe they pay too much in taxes and get too little government investment in return, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

The independence movement is more than 100 years old. It gained in popularity in recent years as Spain fell into economic crisis. A referendum held in 2013 resulted in 80 percent support for secession, but was deemed invalid by Madrid.

In the lead-up to Monday's vote, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy referred to the resolution as “an act of provocation.” He is scheduled to speak later in the day.

The vote was made possible in part by September parliamentary elections in which two pro-secessionist parties won a majority in Catalonia’s regional government.

“There is a growing cry for Catalonia to not merely be a country, but to be a state, with everything that means," the head of the “Together for Yes” party, Raul Romeva said at the start of today’s parliamentary session. He referred to the vote as marking a “before and after” in Spain and Catalonia. 

Catalan members of Spain’s ruling party and other local politicians opposed to a split did try to block the vote. However, the Constitutional Court of Spain ruled last week that today’s vote could move forward, complicating options for potential recourse in the coming days and weeks, reports Spanish newspaper La Razon.

Analysts say the Constitutional Court is likely to bar Catalonia from putting today’s roadmap into effect. The resolution, however, explicitly notes that it views the court to be “without authority,” and that the outcome is not contingent on the court, raising concern as to whether regional politicians will pay heed, according to El Pais (link in Spanish).

Catalonian politicians are looking to Kosovo as a model for how to move forward in gaining international recognition of their independence, according to a separate El Pais report.

In the comments section of one article today outlining the vote, a reader named Antonio Azaga, wrote, “Anyone who publicly claims that they won’t respect the laws of the state should be detained for sedition,” referring to the politicians who led today's vote. Mr. Azaga adds that Mr. Rajoy must now respond much more definitively and forcefully to the independence movement.

Over the past several years, pro-independence Catalans have launched large-scale rallies. But according to The Associated Press, those who are in favor of remaining a part of Spain have typically kept a low profile. That may change as the situation heats up. Today's resolution calls on the assembly to draft legislation within the next month to create a new and separate social security system and treasury. 

National newspapers today painted a picture of the battle that lies ahead, with headlines like, “Disconnection from reality,” “The consequences of an unprecedented resolution,” and “And the state took off its jacket,” accompanied by an image reminiscent of Clark Kent taking off his street clothes to reveal a crest with the number 155, the constitutional amendment that gives the senate power to discipline regional presidents.

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