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Catalan referendum: Vote illegal - Spain's King Felipe

Catalan referendum: Vote illegal - Spain's King Felipe
From BBC - October 3, 2017

In a TV address, Spain's King Felipe VI has condemned organisers of Catalonia's independence referendum for having put themselves "outside the law".

He said the situation in Spain was "extremely serious", calling for unity.

Hundreds of thousands in Catalonia have been protesting over Spanish police violence during Sunday's vote, during which nearly 900 people were hurt.

Meanwhile, Catalonia's leader told the BBC the autonomous region would declare independence in a matter of days.

In his first interview since the referendum, Carles Puigdemont said his government would "act at the end of this week or the beginning of next".

When asked what he would do if the Spanish government were to intervene and take control of Catalonia's government, Mr Puigdemont said it would be "an error which changes everything".

Mr Puigdemont said there was currently no contact between the government in Madrid and his devolved administration. He was speaking shortly before the king's speech.

What the king did not say

Patrick Jackson, BBC News, Barcelona

When the speech ended, customers in this city centre bar thumped tables and whistled contemptuously, then quickly resumed normal conversation - King Felipe may as well have not spoken.

It was the things he omitted that rankled - no words about those shocking scenes of police beating voters on Sunday, no urgent appeal for dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments, no acknowledgment of the real hunger here for independence or at least a proper, legal referendum, not even a word or two of Catalan.

Instead, he expressed the position of the government, echoing its firm opposition to the vote, saying Catalan leaders had positioned themselves outside the law. He guaranteed "democratic coexistence" on Spanish terms only.

It was a missed opportunity to push the two sides towards dialogue, one customer told me afterwards.

"It does not help the situation at all," said another. "I was not expecting him to intervene at all, actually, but he should at least have mentioned the violence here two days ago."

The central government has described the referendum as illegal.

During the vote, 33 police officers were also injured, local medical officials said.

In his address, King Felipe VI said Catalan leaders who organised the referendum showed their "disrespect to the powers of the state".

"They have broken the democratic principles of the rule of law.

"Today, the Catalan society is fractured," the king said,warning that the poll could put at risk the economy of the wealthy north-eastern region and the whole of Spain.

But he stressed that Spain "will overcome difficult times".

Huge protest rallies have been taking place across Catalonia.

In Barcelona alone, 700,000 people took to the streets, city police were quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

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