The Parliament of Catalonia on Friday voted to begin the process to split from Spain, Reuters reported.

Lawmakers from Opposition parties – the Socialist Party, the People’s Party and Ciudadanos – boycotted the vote on the independence motion and left the chamber in protest. Separatist lawmakers then passed the motion to establish an independent Catalan Republic.

Thousands of independence supporters gathered outside the Parliament and cheered as the votes were counted live on a giant screen.

The motion was passed with 70 votes in favour of Catalonia’s independence from Spain, 10 against it and two blank ballots. It calls for beginning the drafting of Catalonia’s new top laws and initiating negotiations with the Spanish authorities to establish cooperation, AP reported.

On October 19, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont had threatened to declare independence if the Spanish government did not hold a dialogue.

Shortly after the Catalan Parliament’s decision, the Spanish Senate granted special constitutional powers to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, allowing him to take control of Catalonia. He told the Senate that the developments in Catalonia were a “clear violation of the laws of democracy”, and that his government’s first move after Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 Constitution is revoked would be to dismiss Puigdemont and his regional ministers.

This constitutional provision allows the central government to adopt “necessary methods” against a regional government if it “does not comply with the obligations of the Constitution or other laws it imposes, or acts in a way that seriously undermines the interests of Spain”.

The prime minister has urged all citizens to remain calm. “The rule of law will restore legality to Catalonia,” he said on Twitter.