Spain’s prime minister marriano rajoy visited the regional capital barcelona for the first time since taking control of catalonia.
There, hundreds of thousands of supporters of the independence movement had expressed their solidarity with the deposed regional government at a large demonstration on saturday evening. They demanded the withdrawal of the "occupying forces" from madrid and the release of eight deposed ministers who had been summoned by the judiciary following the regional parliament’s decision on independence and taken into custody for investigation in early november.
The participants carried signs saying "freedom for the political prisoners" or "SOS democracy. Many waved the "estelada", the flag of the catalan independence movement .
Members of the imprisoned politicians also took part in the demonstration. The rally was organized by the catalan national assembly (ANC) and the cultural association omnium cultural. The heads of the two organizations are also under investigation. Police say some 750,000 people took to the streets.
After a referendum on the region’s secession from spain on 1. October, the situation in catalonia had escalated further and further. The madrid government of prime minister mariano rajoy had finally applied article 155 of the spanish constitution, stripping the regional government of its power. Since then, it has had control in catalonia . The demonstrators chanted: "out with the occupying power!"
By order of madrid, new elections will be held in catalonia on december 21. December new elections will be held. Rajoy attended an event in barcelona organized by his conservative people’s party (PP), at which the candidates for the vote were presented. "Catalonia is spain and spain is catalonia," rajoy declared to the applause of his fellow party members.
In his speech, he called on the so-called "silent majority" to vote in the election – and to express their rejection of the region’s secession from spain, so that normality could return to the region. A majority of catalans are against independence, but for months they have been making themselves heard less than the supporters of separation.
According to a survey by the metroscopia institute commissioned by the newspaper el pais, a large part of the population welcomes the new elections: 76 percent of spaniards and 69 percent of catalans are in favor of the early vote. 54 percent of spaniards also said they were satisfied with rajoy’s management of the crisis.
The former head of the catalan government, carles puigdemont, sent a video message to the demonstrators. Before the indictment was filed, he and four other politicians had left for brussels. However, the five are threatened with extradition . Puigdemont stated: "surely we will hear their cry in brussels or in prison as well. Thank you."
Barcelona’s mayor ada colau, who is against the secession of the region, also took part in the protest. "We demand the release of those detained, but also that the irresponsible regional government, which has led the country into disaster, stand by it," she said.
Many of the politicians who are imprisoned or have absconded to belgium are expected to stand as candidates in the new election – for example, oriol junqueras, puigdemont’s former vice president. This was announced by his party ERC on saturday. Puigdemont had also declared his intention to stand as a candidate.
All politicians face long prison sentences on charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement of public funds. In spain, rebellion alone is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.