MADRID (AP) — The recent Catalan push for independence was an attack on Spain's democratic system and should serve as a lesson for democracies around the world on the need to preserve the rule of law and national sovereignty, King Felipe VI said Wednesday.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the king said that what happened in Catalonia was "an attempt to undermine the basic rules of our democratic system."
Spain experienced its worst political crisis in decades when the Catalan parliament declared independence Oct. 27. Spain responded by invoking special powers allowing it to fire the regional government, dissolve Catalonia's parliament and call fresh regional elections in December.
The election, however, saw separatist parties regaining a slim majority, and fugitive former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has since been chosen as the candidate to form another government, thus keeping the conflict fueled.
The king spoke as Puigdemont met in Brussels with the new Catalan parliament speaker to discuss how he can be re-elected.
Puigdemont is wanted in Spain on possible rebellion and sedition charges as part of an investigation into the independence declaration and faces arrest if he returns for the investiture.
Speaking to reporters, Puigdemont did not clarify what he would do.
"The ideal way would be to be present," he said, but added that "there are other ways, we don't rule out any."
Alternatively, he might try to be elected in absentia but Spain has said it will fight that in court.
Earlier Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated that the law would upheld and that Puigdemont would be arrested if he returns.
He added that the government would take legal action immediately if the Catalan parliament announces it will allow Puigdemont to be voted in from abroad.
Spain's interior minister said Tuesday that surveillance will be stepped up to ensure that Puigdemont can't re-enter the country undetected.
The Catalan parliament, based in Barcelona, has to have a first investiture vote by Jan. 31.
Polls consistently show that most Catalans want the right to decide the region's future, but they are evenly divided over splitting from Spain.
Associated Press writer in Brussels Lorne Cook contributed to this report.