Rajoy to kick off campaigning in Catalonia ahead of elections

Rajoy to kick off campaigning in Catalonia ahead of elections
From BBC - November 11, 2017

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is visiting Catalonia to begin campaigning for his Popular Party, ahead of regional elections there next month.

Mr Rajoy is expected to address a meeting of supporters of the conservative party on Sunday morning.

His visit comes after 750,000 people rallied in Barcelona to protest against the detention of Catalan leaders.

The Catalan government declared independence in October, prompting Mr Rajoy to sack and jail its leaders.

The prime minister's visit on Sunday will be his first to the region since the upheaval, which saw the national government implement direct rule two weeks ago.

The crisis was sparked by a disputed referendum held in Catalonia in October, in which the independence campaign won 92% of the vote, from a turnout of 43%.

Many of those who were against independence did not cast votes, refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the referendum.

The Spanish government responded to the referendum by dissolving the Catalan parliament, imposing direct rule, and calling a snap regional election on 21 December.

Since the crackdown by Madrid, Catalonia's sacked President Carles Puigdemont has gone into self-imposed exile in Belgium, and his top allies have been prosecuted.

A lawyer whose firm represents two of his imprisoned former ministers told BBC News that their situation had been made worse by Mr Puigdemont's decision to flee.

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