CATALAN president Carles Puigdemont has said he has a mandate to declare independence from Spain but is prepared to wait “a few weeks” in order to facilitate a dialogue.

Puigdemont told the Catalan parliament a landslide victory in the disputed October 1 referendum on independence gives his government grounds to implement its long-held desire to break century-old ties with Spain but he is suggesting holding off.

His speech was highly critical of the Spanish Government’s response to the referendum but he said Catalans have nothing against Spain or Spaniards, and that they want to understand each other better.

“I want to send you a message of calmness and respect; of the will for political dialogue and agreement,” he said. “We’re not criminals. We’re not mad. We’re not carrying out a coup … We’re normal people who want to be able to vote and who have been prepared to engage in whatever dialogue was necessary to do so in a mutually agreed way. We have nothing against Spain or the Spanish. On the contrary, we want to get to understand one another better.”

At the end of his speech, Puigdemont was applauded by standing pro-independence politicians.

But the opposition leader in Catalonia’s parliament said Puigdemont’s statement that he has a mandate to declare independence from Spain “is a coup” and has no support in Europe.

Ines Arrimadas of the Ciudadanos [Citizens] party said the majority of Catalans feel they are Catalans, Spanish and European, and that they will not let regional officials “break their hearts”.

A Spanish official said the government of Spain does not accept what he called an “implicit” declaration of independence by Catalonia president. The official added that the results of the referendum cannot be considered valid.

Rajoy’s government “considers it inadmissible to make an implicit declaration of independence and then leave it in suspension in an explicit manner,” according to the official.

Puigdemont’s speech received mixed reactions from thousands of pro-independence supporters outside the parliament building where he spoke. His statement about having a mandate was greeted with applause and chants in favour of independence.

When he mentioned waiting in order to foster dialogue, some stopped, while others said “yes, yes, it’s the way to do it” and kept applauding.

Hours before the announcement, Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, had appealed to Puigdemont to step back from a declaration and begin dialogue with the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland who campaigned and fought for his country’s independence from the Soviet Union, said he was speaking as a member of an ethnic minority and “as a man who knows what it feels like to be hit by a police baton”.

“Today, I ask you to respect, in your intentions, the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such dialogue impossible,” he said. “Diversity should not and need not lead to conflict, the consequences of which would obviously be bad for the Catalans, for Spain and for the whole of Europe.”

Some 2.3 million Catalans – 43 per cent of the electorate in the north-eastern region – voted in the October 1 independence referendum despite the Spanish Government declaring the ballot illegal and using force to prevent voting taking place.

Catalan authorities say 90 per cent who voted were in favour and declared the results of the vote valid.

The ballot was marred by violence as Spanish riot police tasked with stopping the voting clashed with voters, leaving hundreds injured.

The political deadlock has plunged the country into its deepest political crisis in more than four decades, since democratic rule was restored following the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

In the streets of Barcelona, expectations were divided between those who want to see the birth of a new nation and others opposed to the idea. Some feared a drastic backlash from the Spanish central authorities.

The Catalan parliament’s governing board acknowledged yesterday morning it had received the results in last week’s disputed independence referendum, but a parliamentary official said the board refrained from putting the results through normal parliamentary procedures to elude any legal problems, because the referendum and its legal framework have been suspended by the national Constitutional Court.

Hundreds of thousands have turned out for street protests in Barcelona and other towns in the past month to back Catalan independence and protest against police violence during the vote.

Those who wish to remain part of Spain have also staged separate, large-scale rallies.