Pro-independence activists prepared to take to the streets of Catalonia yesterday as cracks appeared between separatist regional leaders over how best to avoid an impending power takeover by Spain.
In a bid to hold Madrid at arm's length, several members of Carles Puigdemont's executive have urged him to call elections for a new regional government, a source close to the Catalan leader told AFP.
Other allies, however, are pressuring Puigdemont to follow through on his threat to unilaterally break away the semi-autonomous region that accounts for 16 percent of Spain's population and 20 percent of its economic output.
Civic groups, too, piled on the pressure, organising a march on the regional parliament yesterday evening to press for an independent Catalan republic.
The region of 7.5 million people is fiercely protective of its language and culture and has long struggled for self-determination.
Its inhabitants, however, are deeply divided on independence from Spain.
The country's deepest political crisis in decades was sparked by a "Yes" vote in a banned October 1 independence referendum.
Catalan leaders say 90 percent of participants voted for independence, though only 43 percent of voters -- some 2.3 million -- turned out in a plebiscite that did not meet electoral standards.
Many anti-secessionists stayed away.
Only two days remain before the central government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy strips Puigdemont and his executive of all political power under Article 155 of the constitution devised to rein in rebel regions.
This central administration would last for up to six months, until elections are called and a new Catalan parliament sworn in.
The Catalan source, who refused to be named, said a number of regional executive members expressed support at a weekly meeting Tuesday for Puigdemont to call an election in the coming days.