MADRID/BARCELONA — Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday ruled out holding a snap regional election to break the deadlock between the central government and separatists seeking a split from Spain, sharpening the political crisis.
Puigdemont had been expected to announce an election in order to counter Madrid’s moves to take direct control of autonomous Catalonia.
But, speaking in the courtyard of the regional government headquarters in Barcelona, Puigdemont said he had not received sufficient guarantees from the central government that holding an election would prevent the imposition of direct rule.
“I was ready to call an election if guarantees were given. There is no guarantee that justifies calling an election today,” Puigdemont said.
He said it was now up to the Catalan parliament to move forward with a mandate to split from Spain following an independence referendum that took place on Oct. 1 — an event Madrid had declared illegal and tried to stop.
Puigdemont’s stand sets the stage for the Spanish Senate to approve the take-over of Catalonia’s institutions and police, and give the government the power to remove the Catalan president.
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But it could also lead to confrontation in the streets as some independence supporters have promised to mount a campaign of civil disobedience.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, speaking in a televised Senate committee, said: “The independence leaders have shown their true face, they have promised a dream but are performing tricks.”
The aim of Article 155 — the constitutional device allowing direct rule — was to permit any election to take place in a normal and neutral situation, she said.
The political crisis, the gravest since Spain’s return to democracy four decades ago, has divided Catalonia itself and caused deep resentment in other parts of the country.
It has also prompted a flight of business from the wealthy region and worried other European leaders who see it as fanning separatist sentiment elsewhere on the continent.
It was not yet clear whether Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would immediately enforce direct rule or simply seek the Senate’s authorisation to do so on Friday but without making it effective on the ground.
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Exactly how the central government would enforce in practical terms, and how Catalan civil servants and regional police would react, is also uncertain.
National police used heavy-handed tactics to try to prevent the Oct. 1 referendum from taking place.