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Catalonia 'in the dark' as Puigdemont cancels address

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 26/10/2017
Hundreds protested in Barcelona ahead of Puigdemont's scheduled address [Rafael Marchante/Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera Hundreds protested in Barcelona ahead of Puigdemont's scheduled address [Rafael Marchante/Reuters]

Barcelona, Spain - Catalan President Carles Puigdemont on Thursday cancelled a scheduled announcement, in a surprise move that has left Catalonia in the dark on its path forward in the wake of an independence referendum.

Puigdemont was reportedly expected to announce general elections for Catalonia in what was considered a plan to foil Madrid's plans to directly administer the breakaway region.

The elections were one of three options "on the table" for Puigdemont, according to Carme Forcadell, president of the Catalan Parliament.

These included a declaration of independence, a declaration of independence with subsequent elections, or elections without independence.

It was not immediately known why Puigdemont's announcement was cancelled.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced on Saturday his plans to apply Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. The untapped article is only two paragraphs and allows broad discretion for the administration of regional governments. 

The measure requires an absolute majority from the Spanish Senate in order to be activated. Rajoy heads a minority government and needs the supports of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) to enact Article 155.

PSOE spokesperson Margarita Roble on Wednesday said that if "elections are called in the constitutional order, there is no reason to apply Article 155".

Scene of confusion

Ahead of Puigdemont's expected announcement, hundreds of protesters had gathered outside the Palace of the Government in Barcelona's Gothic quarter waiting to hear the Catalan leader speak.

They waved the Estelada, a one-starred Catalan flag used to represent an independent Catalan republic, and chanted "Out! Out! Out! The Spanish flag!" and other pro-independence slogans.

But as the news of the announcement's suspension trickled out, a sense of confusion fell upon the crowd. A few protesters were holding signs that said "Puigdemont the traitor - The only hope for self-determination is the working class".

Puigdemont was commonly seen as a stalwart supporter of Catalan independence and the man who would guide the region into a new state apart from Spain.

Catalans voted in a disputed independence referendum on October 1 that was ruled illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court and met with police violence, which was condemned by rights groups and European leaders.

The Catalan government said 90 percent voted for independence, but turnout was less than 50 percent.

Puigdemont announced independence on October 10, but suspended the declaration after eight seconds to encourage dialogue with Madrid.

No dialogue is known to have taken place. 

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"It appears to be that Puigdemont doesn't lack what his party represents - 'Convergence'," Cesc Vives, a Barcelona resident, told Al Jazeera.

Convergence was the name of Puigdemont's previous party that was dissolved in 2015. It was historically a pro-union political body.

But with the suspension of the announcement, Vives continued, he is not sure what to expect.

Others were equally confused, but expressed hope that there would not be any elections.

Anna Erra, the mayor of Vic, a small Catalan city known for being pro-independence, tweeted: "I don't want elections".

Puigdemont is expected to speak later on Thursday evening.

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