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Protests as Catalan leader under pressure

AFP / Khmer Times Share:
Students wave Catalan pro-independence 'Estelada' flags during a protest in front of the Generalitat Palace (Catalan government) in Barcelona. AFP

BARCELONA (AFP) – Thousands of Catalan activists protested in Barcelona yesterday as separatist leader Carles Puigdemont prepared to address the nation amid speculation he would back off from an
independence declaration.

Media reports said Mr Puigdemont might dissolve parliament and announce fresh elections instead, to prevent Spain seizing control of the wealthy northeastern region following an outlawed independence referendum.

An address by Mr Puigdemont, initially scheduled for 1.30pm yesterday, was “suspended” without an explanation

Even though there was no official confirmation that he would call elections, two Puigdemont allies had already resigned in protest.

“I don’t agree with the decision to go to elections. I resign as MP and I will leave the @Pdemocratacat,” tweeted Jordi Cuminal, a lawmaker for PDeCAT, Mr Puigdemont’s party.

Thousands of pro-independence students and activists gathered in front of the regional government
in Barcelona to the shouts of “independence.” One banner read: “Puigdemont, traitor.”

In a day of sudden twists and turns, it was unclear whether regional lawmakers would meet as planned at 5pm (10pm last night, after press time) in a session many feared would lead to a unilateral declaration to break Catalonia away from Spain.

At the same time, a Senate committee is scheduled to gather in the Spanish capital to work on a blueprint for seizing the region’s political powers and finances in a bid to stop the independence drive.

The upper house, where Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party holds a majority, is due today to approve the measures proposed by the central government.

They are intended to remain effective for up to six months.

Yesterday, it was not clear whether the central government would back off if Mr Puigdemont abandons his independence drive and calls elections instead.

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