Spain court suspends Catalan legislature after poll

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Spain's Constitutional Court yesterday ordered the suspension of Monday's session of the regional Catalan parliament, throwing its plans to declare unilateral independence from Spain into doubt.

There was no immediate reaction from Catalan leaders who held an independence referendum on Sunday that was banned by Madrid and marked by violent scenes at electoral stations where Spanish police sought to hinder voting.

The suspension order further aggravated one of the biggest political crises to hit Spain since the establishment of democracy following the death of General Franco in 1975. But it helped Spanish markets hit in recent days by the uncertainty.

The court said it had agreed to consider a legal challenge filed by the anti-secessionist Catalan Socialist Party.

Spanish shares and bonds, which have been hit by the political turmoil in Catalonia, strengthened after the news of the court's decision.

The main IBEX stock index rose 2.3 percent, on track for its biggest daily gain in a month, and Spain's 10-year bond yield was set for its biggest daily fall since April.

Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said the dispute "is generating uncertainty that is paralyzing all investment projects in Catalonia."

Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested a minority of around 40 percent of residents in Catalonia backed independence. But a majority wanted a referendum to be held, and the violent police crackdown angered Catalans across the divide.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called on Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont yesterday to abandon plans to unilaterally declare independence from Spain or risk "greater evils."

Rajoy said the solution to the Catalan crisis was a prompt return to legality and "a statement as soon as possible that there will not be a unilateral declaration of independence, because that will also avoid greater evils." He did not elaborate.

Puigdemont said he was not afraid of being arrested for organizing the referendum.

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