Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has failed to clarify whether or not Catalonia plans to break away from Spain, and has instead called for talks.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had given Puigdemont until Monday 10:00am local (08:00 GMT) to make his position clear and until Thursday to change his mind if he called for to secede. Rajoy has threatened that Madrid would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy if Puigdemont chooses secession.
In his letter to Rajoy on Monday, published by Catalan media, Puigdemont did not directly answer yes or no to whether he is declaring independence, and said the two sides should meet “in spite of everything that that has happened”.
He said the offer of dialogue is “honest and sincere”.
Puigdemont declared independence last Tuesday, then suspended the effects of the declaration after eight seconds, leaving the door open to dialogue with the central government in Madrid.
But those talks have not taken place.
The Spanish justice department said on Monday it does not consider Puigdemont’s letter as “valid” because it lacked clarity.
Rajoy has yet to respond to Puigdemont’s letter, and is expected to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows the central government to take control of Catalonia’s regional government.
Article 155, referred to as the “nuclear option”, has never been used before.
“Rajoy has the problem of having to appear as the strongman, because this has been the theme of [his right-wing Popular Party] ever since Francoism,” Jordi Graupera, a Catalan political analyst and researcher at Princeton university, told Al Jazeera.
Rajoy’s Popular Party was founded by former ministers of Francisco Franco’s far-right, authoritarian government that ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975.
Franco outlawed minority culture and languages such as Catalan in an attempt to homogenise Spain.
Many in Catalonia still feel their culture is under threat due to the Popular Party’s “anti-Catalan” policies.
Rajoy’s position to keep pushing Catalonia back is unsurprising, given that the Popular Party has for decades built a platform “that negates any possible legitimacy for Catalonia to be a political subject, and attempted to dilute all cultural difference”, said Graupera.
Catalans voted on October 1 to secede from Spain in a referendum that was marred by violence.
The Catalan government says 90 percent voted for independence, though many were blocked from voting by police raids and others abstained.
But some Catalans support remaining a part of Spain. They fear the risks of becoming a new state and say their cultures similar.
Catalonia’s Popular Party President Xavier Garcia Albiol has called Puigdemont “unconscientious”.
The passing of Monday’s deadline marks the continuation of a challenging process that began in earnest in September, when Puigdemont and his “Together for Yes” Catalan nationalist ruling coalition – along with the support of far-left Popular Unity Candidacy – passed a law for a binding referendum on independence from Spain.
Spain’s constitutional court ordered a suspension of the referendum the day after it was announced, following an appeal from the Spanish government which said the plebiscite would breach the country’s constitution.
Spain’s 1978 constitution decrees that the country is indivisible, and grants the national government exclusive power to hold referendums.