The Latest: Spanish PM Rajoy appeals to voters in Catalonia

December 19, 2017

Esquerra de Catalunya (ERC) party candidate Marta Rovira talks to journalists during a party campaign act in Estremera prison, where former vice president of Catalan regional government Oriol Junqueras is currently jailed, in Estremera central Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. Voters go to polls this week in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia in elections called by the Spanish government after it sacked the former regional cabinet and dissolved the local parliament. At the back a dozen of pro-Spain activists hold up a blue banner reads in Spanish: "Spain does not give up". (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Catalonia’s political crisis (all times local):

9:45 p.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has campaigned for his party ahead of a regional election in Catalonia by boasting about his government’s crackdown on Catalan separatists.

Rajoy called the election being held Thursday after he dismissed the region’s pro-secession government following a declaration of independence by regional lawmakers on Oct. 27.

Polls show his Popular Party’s (PP) candidate for regional president, Xavier Garcia Albiol, with the least support heading into the election. Many conservative voters have shifted to the upstart Ciutadans (Citizens) party.

Rajoy has recently intensified his campaigning in Catalonia.

During a closing campaign event on Tuesday, the prime minister told Popular Party supporters in Barcelona: “We have sacked the (Catalan) government because it was seated on a cascade of illegalities.”

He added: “Those of us who defend democracy, the Constitution and the law are on the good side of history.”


9:30 p.m.

Marta Rovira, the No. 2 candidate for the left-wing republican ERC party in Spain’s Catalonia region, says her goal in a regional election Thursday is to breathe fresh life into the Catalan secession bid.

Rovira said at her party’s final campaign event on Tuesday night she is looking for “change, hope, social justice.”

The rally was held in the Barcelona neighborhood where Oriol Junqueras, the party’s jailed leader, lives. Recent polls indicate ERC is one of the front-runners in the election.

Junqueras, Catalonia’s former deputy president, was jailed in Madrid on provisional rebellion charges after backing a unilateral declaration of Catalan independence in October.

The national government, deeming that move unconstitutional, dismissed the Catalan government and called Thursday’s ballot.


9:15 p.m.

Carles Puigdemont, the ousted Catalan separatist leader, has vowed to return to Catalonia if he’s re-elected as the region’s president on Thursday.

Puigdemont is campaigning in the polarized election from Brussels. He fled there with other former Cabinet members when Spanish authorities led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took control of Catalonia in late October amid a defiant independence push.

He is hoping a win at the polls would allow him to avoid jail upon returning to Spain, where he is being sought as part of a sedition investigation stemming from the regional parliament’s declaration of independence.

Puigdemont addressed his ticket’s supporters in a video streamed live online and shown in Catalan towns on Tuesday night, saying “history observes us.”

He said: “This time is not about who wins this election, it’s about whether the country wins or Rajoy.”


8:30 p.m.

The leading regional presidential candidate opposing independence for Catalonia says she will bury the region’s secession bid if she wins an election in two days.

Ines Arrimadas closed the campaign of her pro-business Ciudadanos (Citizens) party on Tuesday by addressing more than 2,000 supporters in Nou Barris, a working-class neighborhood of Barcelona where support for secession has been low in past elections.

She told the crowd: “On Thursday, we are going to awaken from this nightmare of the independence push.”

The 34-year-old lawyer presented the election as a choice “either to extend this Catalonia that is broken and divided or to begin a new era for all Catalans.”

Arrimadas has promised economic stability and to fight corruption while trying to turn anti-secessionist sentiment into support that would make her Catalonia’s first female leader.

Pollsters estimate that she could win the most votes but fall short of a majority, creating a challenging scenario for forging postelection deals.


2:25 p.m.

A Spanish state prosecutor has urged the Supreme Court to reject an appeal by Catalan pro-independence politician Oriol Junqueras to be freed from jail before this week’s regional election in which he is among those expected to win the most votes.

In a report, the prosecutor said there was no reason to change the Supreme Court’s decision to keep Junqueras in jail on provisional charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement following the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence Oct. 27.

Junqueras was deputy president in the Catalan government sacked by Spain’s national government following the declaration. He heads the left-wing republican ERC party tipped to be among the most voted in Thursday’s election.

Pro-Spain activists shouted insults as ERC party members made a brief solidarity visit to the jail Tuesday.


9:10 a.m.

Political parties for and against Catalonia’s independence from Spain are making a final effort to convince voters as campaigning for a regional election comes to an end.

The election Thursday is being held in exceptional circumstances as it was ordered by the Spanish government when it seized control of the region, dismissed its government and dissolved the regional parliament following a declaration of independence by lawmakers there Oct. 27.

Several of the ousted Cabinet, including former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, are campaigning from Brussels where they have sought refuge from Spanish justice while others are in jail in Spain on provisional rebellion charges.

Puigdemont is to close his re-election campaign with a video speech Tuesday to be relayed at a party rally in Barcelona.

Update hourly