Deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has hailed a victory of democracy, while the leader of pro-unionist Citizens Party has blamed “unfair” laws for their inability to form a majority.
“I want to congratulate the Catalan people, because they have sent a message to the world. The Catalan republic has beaten the monarchy and article 155. The Spanish state has been beaten. Mr Rajoy and his allies have lost,” Puigdemont said from Brussels where he is hiding from Spanish authorities.
“Now we need to restore democracy, restore our legitimate government, our freedoms. We need to free all those people who are still in prison, but should not be,” he added, as cited by the Guardian.
The leader of the pro-union Citizens Party – which won the election by a small margin in terms of vote share but with just 37 seats will be unable to form a majority – said Catalan voters are clearly “in favor of union with Spain”. Ines Arrimadas lamented that an “unfair” electoral law had given “more seats to those who have fewer votes in the street”.
Pro-independence parties “can no longer speak on behalf of everyone” because “for the first time, a unionist party has the elections in Catalonia, and it is Citizens,” she added.
“Europe must take note. The Rajoy recipe does not work,” Puigdemont said after the preliminary results of Catalonia’s snap election were announced. He also called on Madrid to release all political prisoners.
“We have maintained the legitimacy and continuity of an institution that was born in 1359. With this legitimacy, we have given news to the world: the Catalan Republic has won. Let them understand it well! Let them take note!”
Spain’s central government ordered the snap vote for December 21 to decide a new regional parliament after the fallout from the October 1 independence referendum, which Madrid declared illegal and void. Following the unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan government late in October, Madrid responded by suspending the region’s autonomy and sacking its government.
Several pro-independence politicians were jailed, while Puigdemont managed to flee to Brussels but said he would return to Catalonia if he wins. Puigdemont is presently in Belgium as Madrid still has an active warrant out for his arrest. He faces charges of sedition, inciting a rebellion, and embezzlement of public funds over his role in the Catalan independence movement.
Protests swept through Spain ahead and after the vote on Catalonia’s independence. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, with both pro and anti-independence protesters rallying consistently across the country.