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Catalan crisis: Regional MPs to debate Spain takeover bid

Catalonia’s parliament is to have its say on the escalating crisis over the regional government’s push for independence from Spain.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is leading the drive for the region’s independence

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont opted not to call regional elections as a way of breaking the deadlock with Madrid, asking parliament to debate the crisis.

The Spanish government plans to strip Mr Puigdemont of his powers.

Article 155 of the Spanish constitution allows Madrid to impose direct rule in the region.

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Large crowds gathered outside the regional government building in Barcelona, ahead of Mr Puigdemont’s much-anticipated statement.

Many hoped that he would declare independence. But there has also been speculation that he might call regional elections in a effort to avoid direct rule from Madrid.

However Mr Puigdemont did neither. “I have been prepared to call elections, as long as guarantees are given,” he said.

He added that Spain’s governing Popular Party had not given such assurances – without giving any details.

“It is up to the (Catalan) parliament to proceed with what the majority determines,” he said.

The regional parliament is now in session. Local media say that his coalition of pro-independence groups has been under strain.

A spokesman for ERC, a Catalan separatist party, had threatened to withdraw its support for Mr Puigdemont if he called a snap election.

Spain’s deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, defended her government’s handling of the crisis, saying the Spanish model was “one of the most decentralised in the world”.

“We’ve always shown our sincere desire to collaborate. The pro-independence camp have made it clear they don’t want dialogue.”

Mr Puigdemont declared independence after a referendum on 1 October, which was ruled illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. But the Catalan leader immediately suspended implementation, calling for talks.

The regional government said that of the 43% who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence. BBC