Catalonia: Spain celebrates National Day amid political turmoil
Spain is preparing to celebrate its National Day amid a continuing political crisis sparked by Catalonia’s disputed independence referendum.
The public display of unity comes a day after PM Mariano Rajoy told parliament the country was facing the most serious threat to its 40-year-old democracy.
He has given Catalonia’s separatist leader five days to clarify whether or not he has declared independence.
Spain has threatened to impose direct rule on the autonomous region.
The National Day is a public holiday and commemorates the reconquest of Spain and Christopher Columbus’s first arrival in the Americas in 1492.
Parades will take place in the capital Madrid with King Felipe and Mr Rajoy expected to attend. Other events will be held across the country.
But this year’s event comes amid turmoil sparked by the 1 October referendum in Catalonia, declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Catalan officials say almost 90% of voters backed independence with a turnout of 43%. Anti-independence voters largely boycotted the ballot and there were reports of irregularities.
Following days of intense speculation, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence in Barcelona on Tuesday, but immediately suspended its implementation to allow for talks with Madrid.
The move frustrated hardline separatists and brought scorn from the Spanish government.
After holding an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr Rajoy accused Mr Puigdemont of having created “deliberate confusion” and said he wanted to restore “certainty”.
He said his government had asked the regional government to clarify whether or not it had declared independence.
If Mr Puigdemont confirms by Monday that he has, he will be given a further three days to withdraw the declaration.
Failing that, Madrid will invoke Article 155 of the constitution allowing it to suspend the region’s autonomy and impose direct rule. Article 155 has never been used before.