Supporters of the Catalan independence drive on tractors in Barcelona ahead of the regional leader's much-anticipated speech to lawmakers
Madrid (AFP) - Spain’s Prime Minister on Wednesday gave Catalonia’s separatist leader five days to clarify whether or not it was declaring independence, as he considers imposing direct rule from Madrid.
Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday said the region had earned the right to break away from Spain after a disputed referendum but called for the process to be suspended to leave the door open to negotiations.
Here is how events have unfolded in the worst political crisis in Spain in decades:
- October 1: Violence-hit referendum -
After days of rising tensions, thousands of Catalans line up to vote in the referendum, despite it being declared illegal by the Spanish courts and the central government.
Spanish riot police try to block the vote, forcing their way into polling stations to seize ballot boxes and voting material.
Shocking footage emerges of police charging crowds at some stations, using batons and rubber bullets and roughing up voters – some of whom were elderly.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont says he has the "mandate of the people" for the region to become "an independent republic," but proposed suspending its immediate implementation to allow for dialogue
Puigdemont says “the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form of a republic”.
But Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insists: “There has not been a self-determination referendum in Catalonia. The rule of law remains in force with all its strength.”
- October 2: International concern -
The Catalan government says 90 percent of voters backed independence on a turnout of 42.3 percent, with parties opposed boycotting the vote.
Spanish riot police cracked down on voters during the October 1 independence referendum
The European Commission calls on Madrid and the separatists to hold talks, while the UN urges Spain to investigate the violence.
Puigdemont demands the withdrawal of national police from Catalonia and calls for international mediation.
Several thousand people march in Barcelona and other Catalan towns to defend the referendum and denounce police violence.
- October 3: General strike and king’s speech -
A general strike called by more than 40 unions, political and social groups, disrupts Barcelona’s port, transport and some businesses. Up to 700,000 people demonstrate in the Catalan capital.
King Felipe VI accuses Catalan leaders of threatening Spain’s stability and urges the state to defend “constitutional order”.
- October 4: Towards an independence declaration? -
Puigdemont says his government is preparing to proclaim independence, perhaps at “the end of the week”.
The Madrid stock market tumbles as rattled investors dump Spanish shares.
- October 5: Economic anxiety -
Spain’s Constitutional Court orders the suspension of the planned Catalan parliament session.
Banco Sabadell, Catalonia’s second largest bank, announces it will relocate its offices outside the region. Several other companies follow suit.
- October 6: Easing tensions? -
Puigdemont delays an appearance in the regional parliament until Tuesday.
Madrid’s Catalan representative apologises for the first time for the police violence during the vote.
In Madrid, pro-independence leaders are released after facing court on sedition accusations.
- October 7: March for dialogue -
Tens of thousands of people, some dressed in white, demonstrate in several Spanish cities, as well as the Basque Country, demanding dialogue to resolve the crisis.
In a newspaper interview, Rajoy refuses to rule out suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy unless its leaders withdraw the threatened independence declaration.
- October 8: Barcelona unity protest -
Over 350,000 people, according to local police, join a unity march in Barcelona. Organisers put turnout at up to 950,000.
Puigdemont hints that the region would declare independence if Madrid continues to refuse dialogue.
- October 10: Declaration of independence suspended -
Puigdemont announces in a speech to the Catalan parliament that he has the right to declare independence after the referendum but suspends the process to allow for talks with Madrid.
The Spanish government responded swiftly, saying: “It’s unacceptable to make a tacit declaration of independence then to suspend it in an explicit manner.”
Puigdemont and his allies then signed a declaration of independence for the region, but suspended its implementation.
- October 11: Threat of direct rule -
Rajoy gives the separatist leader five days to clarify his position on whether or not he declared independence on Tuesday.
Speaking in parliament, Rajoy says if Puigdemont confirms Catalonia has split from Spain, he will have a further five days, until October 19, to reconsider before Catalan autonomy is suspended.