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Catalan leader finds scant support for calls for new independence referendum

Quim Torra was met with near silence in the regional parliament on Thursday, after suggesting a repeat vote on secession from Spain, and even laying out a provisional schedule

Quim Torra addresses the Catalan parliament on Thursday.
Quim Torra addresses the Catalan parliament on Thursday.

Quim Torra, the regional premier of Catalonia, on Thursday found himself alone in his defense of a new unauthorized referendum on independence.

Addressing lawmakers in the Catalan parliament, where separatist parties enjoy a majority, Torra surprised even his closest allies when he suggested holding a repeat vote on secession from Spain and even laid out a provisional schedule.

This is not the right time to set deadlines for ourselves

Sergi Sabrià, ERC

“I will defend exercising our right to self-determination by the end of this term,” he told the assembled lawmakers, who had been asking the government leader how he plans to deal with the escalating street violence seen across Catalonia this week.

The protests began on Monday, when the Supreme Court handed down a prison sentence against nine leaders of the 2017 unilateral secession attempt, which included an outlawed independence referendum on October 1 of that year and culminated in a declaration of independence in parliament toward the end of the same month.

“If we get sentenced to 100 years [in prison] for taking out the ballot boxes for self-determination, then we’ll have to take out the ballot boxes for self-determination,” he added. Nobody in the chamber applauded the statement.

I defend exercising our right to self-determination by the end of this term

Catalan premier Quim Torra

Torra’s partners – the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and a significant number of lawmakers for Together for Catalonia (JxCat), the two main separatist parties in the Catalan parliament – do not see a new unauthorized poll as a viable option.

Instead, Torra’s proposal was viewed as an attempt to prolong a political term that most lawmakers see as effectively having ended already, two years ahead of time. “This is not the right time to set deadlines for ourselves,” said Sergi Sabrià, the ERC spokesperson. The plan was equally rejected by the small, anti-capitalist CUP, which also supports independence from Spain.

Other opposition parties demanded Torra’s resignation over the state of affairs in Catalonia, where a general strike called for Friday capped a week of escalating violence on the streets of Barcelona and other major cities. Torra’s government has shown support for the strike.

English version by Susana Urra.

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