Independence messages by separatist political parties mark national day of Catalonia

Vote for independence and amnesty demands reiterated by separatist leaders in exchange to support for forming new government

Beyza Binnur Dönmez, Alyssa Mcmurtry  | 11.09.2023 - Update : 12.09.2023
Independence messages by separatist political parties mark national day of Catalonia People carrying Catalan pro-independence Estelada flags take part in demonstrations to mark Catalonia's national day 'La Diada' at the Fossar de les Moreres square in Barcelona, Spain on September 11, 2023


Separatist political parties in Catalonia, poised as kingmakers for continuing Spain’s leftist coalition government after July’s general elections, reiterated Monday their demand for secession from the Spanish state on La Diada, Catalonia's national day. 

Pro-independence initiatives in Catalonia, frozen for over three years, have once again flared up with the uncertainty in the formation of the government in Madrid and the need for the support of separatist Catalan political parties.

Celebrated every Sept. 11, Catalan politicians once again called for amnesty and an independence referendum on Diada.

Catalonia's left-wing separatist President Pere Aragones, in his Diada message, warned the Spanish government that "the amnesty, by itself, does not resolve the conflict."

Aragones was referring to separatist politicians who were prosecuted or sentenced after an illegal referendum in 2017.

"Catalonia wants to vote on independence, the amnesty is only the starting point," he said.

Exiled Catalan separatist leader Carles Puidgemont gave a similar message, saying: “It is necessary to reclaim not only freedom and independence, but also the nation."

Puigdemont, a former Catalan president and current member of the European Parliament, fled Spain in 2017 after he spearheaded an illegal referendum and subsequent declaration of independence in Catalonia. He is still wanted under Spanish law.

But the fugitive from Spanish justice has emerged as a kingmaker with his Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) party after July’s election resulted in a hung parliament.

Sanchez pardoned the Catalan leaders who faced trial in Spain, but Puigdemont still faces significant prison time upon his return. In exchange for supporting government formation, his party is demanding amnesty and other concessions, like a binding vote on Catalan independence.

Sanchez also celebrated Diada with a message underlining the need to move ahead.

"Catalonia has opened a new path of progress, understanding and coexistence. It is time to look to the future and keep moving forward," he said. "Happy Diada!"

In Spain, political parties must find majority support to form a government.

Paradoxically, Spain’s conservative Popular Party leader Feijoo is also trying to form a government. To do so, he is negotiating with some nationalist parties from the Basque Country and Catalonia as well.

If neither Feijoo nor Sanchez can muster up majority support to form a government, Spaniards could be forced to go back to the polls.  

115,000 protestors fill streets of Barcelona demanding independence

Around 115,000 people filled the streets of Barcelona to mark Diada and call for the region’s independence from Spain, according to Barcelona police.

Most of the protestors, including the organizer of Monday’s March, the National Catalan Assembly (ANC), are calling for independence from Spain.

“Separatism is gaining steam. People aren’t demanding government formation in Spain, they’re demanding independence,” said politician Laura Borras, who belongs to Puidgemont’s party Junts per Catalunya.

However, the participation numbers suggest otherwise.

The National Day of Catalonia, La Diada, turned into a march for independence around 2012. Since, then, this year’s march has the fewest number of people of any year, excluding the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, according to Spanish daily El Pais.

In 2014, the march attracted 1.8 million participants, according to Barcelona police.

This year’s march, just like last year’s, was also marked by infighting. Aragones left the march early after a group of protestors called him a “traitor” and chanted for the government’s resignation.

While Spain’s current government, led by acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, has stated its willingness to negotiate with the Catalan separatists, members of the government stress that any deals must be constitutional. Without reform, Spain’s Constitution would not allow for an independence referendum.

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