Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged Catalans to turn out in force in a December election to “restore normality” to a region buffeted by attempts to split from Spain. Pascale Davies reports.
The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on his first visit to Catalonia since Madrid imposed direct rule on the region, having fired its separatist leaders. Rajoy called on Catalans to turn out in force in the upcoming regional election and vote for his Peoples Party. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) SPANISH PRIME MINISTER MARIANO RAJOY SAYING: "We want the December 21 election to have a massive turnout so that a new political stage can be set in motion bringing peace, normality and coexistence, respect for the rules of the game and also of economic recuperation." Although peace looks far off. 750,000 people marched in Barcelona on Saturday (November 12) calling for the release of the separatist leaders. Detained when the Catalan government declared independence following a disputed referendum in October. The former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, currently in self-imposed exile in Belgium, sent a video message to the demonstrators. In it he urged the international community to pay attention to the Catalan cause. However, Madrid's imposition of direct rule has actually widened the rift between the region's political parties. The two leading pro-independence groupings, Puigdemont's PDeCat party, and the ERC will run in the December election, but not on a united ticket. That could potentially harm the separatist camp's chance of winning a majority in the Catalan parliament, as well as creating political instability, the ongoing crisis is throwing the regional economy into chaos. Rajoy's attempts to win the Catalan vote may not be enough to restore stability. Nor reverse the flow of company headquarters moving out of the troubled region.