The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has asked the Catalan government to clarify whether or not it has declared independence, as he considers the unprecedented step of suspending the region’s autonomy and imposing direct rule from Madrid.
On Tuesday evening, the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont said while the referendum this month had given his government a mandate to create a sovereign republic, he would not immediately push ahead with independence from Spain.
Although he signed a declaration of independence, he proposed that its effects be suspended for a few weeks to allow for dialogue.
Rajoy, who has refused to rule out invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution to take control of Catalonia, was quick to seize on the ambiguity of Puigdemont’s position, accusing him of deliberately sowing confusion.
“The cabinet has agreed this morning to formally require the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared independence after the deliberate confusion created over whether it has come into effect,” he said in a television address on Wednesday.
“This request, which comes before any of the measures that the government could adopt under article 155 of our constitution, is meant to offer our citizens the clarity and security that such an important issue requires.”
Rajoy said the ball was now firmly back in Puigdemont’s court.
“The Catalan president’s answer to this questions will inform what happens over the next few days,” he said. “If Mr Puigdemont demonstrates a willingness to respect the law and re-establish institutional normality, we could bring a close to a period of instability tension, and the breakdown of co-existence.
“That is what everyone wants and expects; it’s what they’ve been demanding. We must put an urgent end to the situation in Catalonia. There must be a return to normality and calm as swiftly as possible.”