Prepare for a 'long road'
Catalonia's ousted leader Carles Puigdemont yesterday accepted the snap election called by Spain's central government when it took control of the region to block its push for independence.
Puigdemont, speaking at a news conference in Brussels, also said he was not seeking asylum in Belgium after Spain's state prosecutor recommended charges for rebellion and sedition be brought against him. He would return to Catalonia when given "guarantees" by the Spanish government, he said.
Puigdemont's announcement that he would accept the regional election on Dec 21 signalled that the Madrid government had for now at least gained the upper hand in the protracted struggle over Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region that already had considerable autonomy.
Resistance to Madrid's imposition of direct control on Catalonia failed to materialise at the start of the week and the secessionist leadership is in disarray.
"I ask the Catalan people to prepare for a long road. Democracy will be the foundation of our victory," Puigdemont said in Brussels, where he showed up after dropping out of sight over the weekend.
The Spanish government has said Puigdemont was welcome to take his chances and stand in the election, called by Rajoy as a way to resolve the stand-off.
The Supreme Court also began processing rebellion charges against Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and senior leaders yesterday.
European nations including Britain, Germany and France have backed Rajoy and rejected an independent Catalan state, although some have called for dialogue between the opposing sides.
Puigdemont, Vice President Oriol Junqueras and other Catalan leaders had said previously they would not accept their dismissal. But their respective parties, PdeCat and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, said on Monday they would take part in the election, a tacit acceptance of direct rule from Madrid.
Two opinion polls showed support for independence may have started to wane. A Sigma Dos survey published in El Mundo showed 33.5 percent of Catalans were in favour of independence, while a Metroscopia poll published by El Pais put that number at 29 percent. That compared with 41.1 percent in July, according to an official survey carried out by the Catalan government.