Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged Catalans to kick separatist leaders out of office when they go to the polls next month.
Mr Rajoy spoke to unionists in Barcelona on Sunday as he visited the divided region for the first time since abolishing the government of Carles Puigdemont after he tried to declare independence.
Catalans are due to vote for a new government on December 21 with Mr Puigdemont set to run and polls showing voters split between separatist and unionist parties.
Mariano Rajoy told unionists in Barcelona to reject independence during elections he scheduled for December 21 after kicking the previous government out of office
Mr Rajoy said the separatist movement has brought nothing but instability to the region and has harmed it economically
Supporters of Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party gathered in Barcelona to hear him speak
Mr Rajoy is visiting Catalonia for the first time since he kicked the previous administration out of office and assumed control
‘We want a massive turnout to open up a new period of normalcy,’ Mr Rajoy told supporters in Barcelona.
‘It’s urgent to return a sense of normality to Catalonia and do so as soon as possible to lower the social and economic tensions,’ Rajoy said Sunday.
‘The threat of the separatists is destructive, sad and agonizing. Secessionism has created insecurity and uncertainty.’
Mr Puigdemont and four of his former ministers fled to Brussels as Mr Rajoy kicked their government out of office and jailed all those who remained behind.
It was thought that Mr Puigdemont would seek diplomatic immunity. He has since said this is not the case, but repeatedly stated he will not get a fair trial in Spain.
He has been quizzed by Belgian authorities and released from custody on the condition that he remains in the country and attends future court summons.
Meanwhile supporters of ousted president Carles Puigdemont held rallies in Brussels, where he fled after his government was dissolved last month
Mr Puigdemont is expected to run in the fresh elections on behalf of his party, but may fight the campaign from Brussels
The demonstrations in Brussels came after thousands gathered in Barcelona to renew their calls for independence on Saturday night
Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party has won three national elections in Spain since 2011, but it won less than 10 percent of the vote in Catalonia’s election in 2015.
It continues to poll behind several other parties in the region, including the pro-business Citizens and the Socialists, which are both against secession.
Rajoy defended his decision to temporarily take over running the region under the Constitution, which allows central authorities to intervene in regions whose officials have gone outside the law.
Catalonia’s separatists, and even some moderates, have criticized the measures as heavy-handed.
‘Exceptional measures can only be taken when there is no other option, and we adopted them to stop the increasing attacks to peaceful coexistence’ in Catalonia, Rajoy said.
‘For centuries Catalonia and Spain have built a country that is multi-cultural and diverse, and the separatists won’t be allowed to break the ties that bind us.’
Apart from the Catalonia government takeover, a judge has jailed 10 separatist leaders while investigating their roles in promoting secession.