The Catalan Parliament voted overwhelmingly to declare independence from Spain on Friday, prompting the Spanish Senate to grant Madrid unprecedented powers to seize control of the autonomous region.
The day’s dramatic and fast-moving events pushed Spain into uncharted territory, testing the limits of the constitution drawn up after the restoration of democracy in the 1970s.
Amid extraordinary scenes in the regional capital of Barcelona, Catalan lawmakers voted to “form the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state” by 70 to 10.
Opposition parties boycotted the vote, a culmination of a weeks-long standoff with Madrid that began with a disputed referendum on October 1.
Pro-independence crowds massed outside the Parliament cheered and waved the Catalan separatist “Estelada” flag as the result was announced.
Less than an hour later, the Spanish Senate granted the Madrid government powers under Article 155 of the constitution to sack the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted an appeal for calm. “I ask all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia,” he said.
The Spanish government called two Cabinet meetings for later Friday. Moves to take over the Catalan administration are expected to begin at the weekend.
Puigdemont: ‘Stay strong’
Speaking in the Catalan Parliament building after the landmark vote, Puigdemont said legitimately elected lawmakers had cast their ballots according to a mandate earned in the October 1 referendum.
But he acknowledged that the path ahead would not be easy. “We are facing a period in which we will need to stay strong and in peace, dignified and civil as we have always been, and I’m sure we will keep being so,” he said.
“The institutions and the people together built nations, societies, and a nation cannot be built without one of these elements.”
Supporters followed his words with applause and repeated chants of “freedom, freedom.”