October 27 will be remembered as the day Catalonia voted to secede from Spain in a historic but rancorous debate within its 135-member parliament that led to the walkout of opposition lawmakers.
Parliament voted with 70 in favour of independence, 10 against while two ballots were left blank.
As the vote was on-going in Barcelona, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave a powerful speech in Madrid compelling the Senate to approve his request for special constitutional measures so he can take control of Catalonia’s government and put an end to the nation’s drive for independence.
Rajoy maintained his confidence that Spain’s constitution would overcome the results of the vote:
“I call on all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality to Catalonia.”
Parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell formally announced the passing of the motion to declare Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
Lawmakers who pushed for secession cheered loudly and chanted the Catalan official anthem while President Carles Puigdemont and Vice President Oriol Junqueras shook hands and exchanged a congratulatory embrace.
Thousands of Catalans were dancing on the streets after the final vote count was revealed on a giant public monitor.
The motion to declare independence included provisions for the drafting of new laws and negotiations designed to keep Catalonia on equal footing with Spain.
The call for independence had its roots in 2006 when the Constitutional Court in Madrid amended a portion of the 2006 autonomy statute to read that there is no legal basis for recognizing Catalonia as a nation within Spain.
When the economic crisis hit Spain in 2009, it only intensified the belief among Catalans that its wealthy city of Barcelona was the only one keeping the country afloat.
Catalonia is one of the wealthiest regions of Spain and accounts for 19% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). An independent Catalonia would mean Spain would lose a sizeable portion of its economic output.
It would also drag Spain into a potential financial quagmire regarding the 52.5 Billion euros debt owed by Catalonia to the central government.
By becoming an independent nation, Catalonia would have a GDP of $314 Billion which would make it the 34th largest economy in the world; larger than Portugal and Hong Kong.
President Puigdemont is supported by a coalition composed of Catalan nationalist forces; the CDC, and the leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya which with the Left-Wing CUP party form the majority in parliament.
The majority coalition was successful in calling for a referendum on Catalonia’s independence which was suspended by Spain’s constitutional court.