Barcelona: Catalonia's parliament voted Friday declaring independence from Spain and proclaimed a republic, just as Madrid is poised to impose direct rule on the semi-autonomous region to stop it in its tracks.
A motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions, with Catalan opposition MPs walking out of the 135-seat chamber before the vote in protest at a declaration unlikely to be given official recognition by Madrid and abroad.
Tens of thousands of independence supporters massed near the Catalan parliament cheered with joy. Watching proceedings in parliament on two large screens, they clapped and shouted "independence" in Catalan before singing the regional hymn, many raising their fists, according to AFP.
Although the declaration was in effect a symbolic gesture as it will not be accepted by Spain or the international community, the moves by both sides take Spain's worst political crisis in four decades to a new level.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy immediately called for calm and said the rule of law would be restored, according to Reuters.
The motion passed in the regional parliament in Barcelona -- which was boycotted by opposition parties -- said Catalonia constituted an independent, sovereign and social democratic state. It called on other countries and institutions to recognize it.
It also said it wanted to open talks with Madrid to collaborate on setting up the new republic.
"It is not going to be easy, it is not going to be free, it is not going to change in a day. But there is no alternative to a process towards the Catalan Republic," lawmaker Marta Rovira of the Junts pel Si pro-independence alliance said in a debate leading to the vote.
More details awaited...