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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Friday, December 15, 2017

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Thousands calling for Spanish unity rally across the country

Spain took to the streets on Sunday

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MADRID, Spain - Thousands calling for unity in Spain took to the streets on Sunday, following the wide split in the nation due to the disputed referendum for Catalan independence.

Protesters attending the rally in the capital Madrid called for unity in the country, while demonstrations in other parts of the country, including in the Catalan city Barcelona were held to urge for political dialogue.

On Saturday, protesters were dressed in white and gathered on the streets with signs saying, "Spain is better than its leaders" and "let's talk.”

As protests and disputes intensify, businesses fearing the ongoing political uncertainty continue to pull out from the Catalan region.

On Saturday, the Caixa Foundation, which controls one of the Spain's largest banks, announced it was moving its headquarters to Palma de Mallorca while the crisis continues.

On Tuesday, in a highly anticipated speech, the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is speculated to declare independence.

According to official figures, the final results showed 90 percent of the 2.3 million people who voted backed independence and the turnout was said to be at 43 percent.

Several claims of irregularities were however made and statements by witnesses and videos broadcast on local media showed that the Spanish police seized many ballot boxes.

On Friday, Spain's government representative in Catalonia apologised to people that were hurt during police efforts to stop the referendum.

At the same time, the representative also blamed the Catalan government for holding an illegal vote.

Enric Millo added that he could not help but "regret it and apologise on behalf of the officers that intervened,” while casting doubt on the numbers said to be injured.

Official figures stated that almost 900 people were hurt.

A day after the voting, the Spanish interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, said that dozens of police officers had also suffered injuries in the clashes.

Officers from the national police and paramilitary Civil Guard were accused of not only preventing people from voting, but also seizing ballot papers and boxes at polling stations.

In Barcelona, police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests.

Videos broadcast on local TV channels showed the Spanish police kicking would-be voters and pulling women out of polling stations by their hair.

In Girona meanwhile, riot police smashed their way into a polling station where Puigdemont was due to vote, and forcibly removed those that were inside.

Catalan medical officials said in a statement on Monday that 33 police officers were injured on Sunday.

The Spanish government's official spokesperson, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo has also apologised for the police violence and suggested that new elections in Catalonia might be a way to heal the fracture caused by the disputed referendum.

Earlier, Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the Catalan parliament session that had been planned for Monday.

There is speculation that the parliament will declare independence unilaterally at its next sitting.

 

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