Security boosted during Catalan election with 13,000 officers on ground

Contingent to be made up of 5,000 more agents than usual in a regional vote in Catalonia

Thousands of police officers are tasked with ensuring safety on Thursday.Photo: atlas | Video: efe | ATLAS

Although the Spanish government is investing a great deal of effort on winning the battle for internet security against the threat from bots, hackers and fake news during the Catalan election to be held tomorrow, there will be plenty of boots on the ground too.

The security presence on Thursday will comprise 13,000 officers, with an extra 2,000 reserve officers on hand to ensure the vote goes ahead without a hitch. That is 5,000 more officers than are usually on duty in regional elections in Catalonia.

Officers are also expected to man the border between Catalonia and France in case former president Puigdemont attempts to return

A total of 10,000 officers with Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, will take the lead role in ensuring security on Thursday. Those officers will get backup from 3,000 officers with Spain’s National Police and Civil Guard security forces, while a further 2,000 officers will be on reserve.

The larger-than-usual security presence comes in the context of high tension in the region. Thursday’s election was called by Madrid after the central government made use of an obscure provision of the Spanish Constitution to enact emergency powers in the region. The Catalan government was also sacked using those powers, after the regional parliament voted through a unilateral declaration of independence on October 27.

Adding to the tension is the fact that several candidates in the election, including former premier Carles Puigdemont and his former deputy Oriol Junqueras, are facing charges that include rebellion and sedition for their role in the recent independence push.

For this reason, there will be a large security contingent on the streets of Catalonia on Thursday, although not as numerous as during the October 1 illegal referendum, when images of Spain's National Police and Civil Guard officers striking voters on their way to the polls were beamed around the world.

Several candidates in the election are facing charges that include rebellion and sedition

A certain number of officers are also expected to man the border between Catalonia and France in case former president Puigdemont – who is the current candidate with the new Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) formation – attempts to return from Belgium, where he fled in a bid to escape justice in Spain after the Catalan parliament passed the unilateral declaration of independence.

Puigdemont would be arrested “as soon as he sets foot in Spain,” according to police sources. The Spanish government is also banking on the support of France: the same sources say France would hand over the former premier to Spain “in a matter of hours” if he were arrested in that country.

English version by George Mills.

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