Catalan parliament votes to declare independence from Spain

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The regional parliament in Catalonia has voted to declare independence from Spain as Madrid prepares to impose direct rule on the region. The lawmakers have called for the establishment of a new Catalan Republic.

Parliament announced just before 3:30 p.m. local time on Friday that 70 lawmakers had voted in favor of a motion to secede from Spain. Members from the opposition Socialists and Citizens parties boycotted the vote.

Responding to the news, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for calm and said the rule of law would be restored in the autonomous region. Lawmakers in Madrid are preparing to impose direct rule in Catalonia and remove the region’s leader.

Friday’s declaration is certain to escalate what is already the country’s worst political crisis in decades.

More than 90% of ballots cast during a referendum on October 1 were in favor of independence, but the vote was declared illegal and turnout was only 43%. A police crackdown – in which 893 people were injured – may have decreased turnout as police seized ballot boxes and closed dozens of voting stations.

Catalonia has insisted for weeks that it will seek to implement the results of the vote, even though Spain’s constitution requires that a referendum on sovereignty takes place nationally, not regionally. It allows Madrid to suspend the regional government’s authority or, in the worst case, send in security forces.

Catalonia, which has a total population of 7.6 million people, has long sought independence from Spain. Many of its residents feel that the wealthy region contributes far more to the Spanish economy than it gets back through central government funds.

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