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Spain's King Stands By Constitution, Calls Referendum Attempt to Break Unity

© AP Photo / Rebecca BlackwellSpanish King Felipe VI
Spanish King Felipe VI - Sputnik International
Addressing the nation Tuesday evening local time, Spain's King Felipe VI deemed Catalonia's referendum vote "illegal and undemocratic," adding that the question of its independence should be handled through what he called legitimate channels.

"Today, Catalan society is fractured and confronted," the 49-year-old Spanish royal said in his address, later labelling the clashes as "very serious moments for [Spain's] democratic life."

People take part in a demonstration two days after the banned independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain October 3, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Acting as the protector of Spain's constitution, King Felipe VI said the vote "could have put at risk the economy of Catalonia and even of Spain." Economic issues are seen as some of the drivers of the independence movement, as Spain struggles to regain its economic footing while Catalonia remains one of its wealthiest regions.

Catalonian separatists "attempted to appropriate the historical institutions of Catalonia and these authorities in a clear and definitive way and they have put themselves outside the rule of law and democracy," the king said. The October 1 referendum was an attempt to "break the unity of Spain and national sovereignty, which is the right of all the Spanish people to decide democratically."

Prior to his televised address, King Felipe met with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy early Tuesday to discuss the violence that erupted in Catalonia Sunday, Euro News reported.

The king's speech was a response to the thousands of Catalan residents that hit the streets to protest the violent crackdown inflicted over the weekend by Spanish authorities attempting to block the vote, according to the outlet.

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