Catalonia’s regional parliament passed a motion Friday to establish an independent Catalan Republic, voting to secede from Spain after an acrimonious debate that saw opposition lawmakers walk out in protest before the vote.
The vote in Barcelona came after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy delivered an impassioned speech in Madrid, urging the country’s Senate to grant his government special constitutional measures that would allow it to take control of Catalonia’s autonomous powers and halt the region’s independence bid.
The vote was approved with 70 in favor of independence, 10 against and two blank ballots in Catalonia’s 135-member parliament.
Rajoy immediately called for calm despite the vote, which Spain is deeply set against. No country in the world has expressed support for independence for Catalonia, a region in northeastern Spain that has 7.5 million people.
“I call on all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality to Catalonia,” he said on Twitter.
Separatist lawmakers in the regional parliament erupted in applause and chants when the chamber’s main speaker, Carme Forcadell, announced the passing of a motion to declare the region’s independence.
The lawmakers stood to chant the Catalan official anthem, joined by dozens of guests. Regional President Carles Puigdemont and his vice president, Oriol Junqueras, exchanged congratulatory embraces and handshakes following the ballot.
Outside, thousands who had gathered near the parliament building to call for independence cheered, with some dancing and raising glasses after seeing the vote and the counting live on a giant screen.
The motion that passed calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia’s new top laws and opening negotiations “on equal footing” with Spanish authorities to establish cooperation. (AP)