Catalonia chief opens door to declaration of independence

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont holds a carnation while visiting the polling station where he was expected to vote at, in the banned independence referendum in Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain, October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Albert Gea

MADRID (Reuters) - The head of the Catalan regional government on Sunday opened the door to a potential declaration of independence of Catalonia from Spain after a day of tensions in the northeastern region where police were deployed to thwart an independence vote.

“On this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia’s citizens have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic,” Carles Puigdemont said in a televised address, surrounded by members of his government.

“My government, in the next few days will send the results of today’s vote to the Catalan Parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum,” he also said.

The law of the referendum foresees a unilateral declaration of independence by the regional parliament of Catalonia if the majority votes to leave Spain.

Preliminary results point to an overwhelming majority of Catalans voting to leave after a referendum that had been banned by the constitutional court and declared illegal by Madrid.

Reporting by Julien Toyer; Editing by Paul Day