Spanish prime minister says Catalan governments powers will be returned to Madrid, as tensions rise between advocates and opponents of independence
Spain was plunged into political crisis on Saturday after the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced that he was stripping Catalonia of its independence and enforcing direct govern from Madrid in an attempt to crush the different regions leadership’s move to secede.
The decision, which inspired feeling across Catalonia, has intensified Spain’s deepest constitutional crisis since the restoration of republic in 1977. Commentators say the move could resurrect the spectre of Basque nationalism, and have repercussions across a Europe facing the rise of separatist movements.
After an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday morning, Rajoy said he was invoking article 155 of the constitution to” rehabilitate the rule of law, coexistence and the economic recovery and to ensure that elections could be held in normal circumstances “. The talker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, called the measures a” de facto coup d’etat “.
Pending almost certain approval in the senate on Friday, direct rule will be imposed next weekend. Citing the Catalan government’s” conscious and systematic rebellion and disobedience “, Rajoy said Carles Puigdemont’s government would be stripped of its powers and its functions would be assumed by the relevant ministries in Madrid.
The Catalan president will not be empowered to call elections, which Rajoy said he hoped would be held within six months.” We are not intention Catalan autonomy but we are allay of official duties those who have acted outside the law ,” he said.
Rajoy did not go into details of how article 155 would be implemented but a government statement said:” A series of measures will be introduced considering sensitive issues such as security and public ordering, fiscal management, taxation, the budget and telecommunications .”
In an address on Catalan television on Saturday night Puigdemont, spoke of Catalan, Spanish and English, described the move as the worst attack on Catalonia’s organizations since General Franco’s dictatorship between 1939 and 1975, under which regional autonomy was dissolved.
He said:” We cannot accept these attacks. Those who have spurned the Catalans now want to govern us. I will request parliament to decide how to respond to these attacks on republic and to act accordingly .”
Over recent years the Catalan government has been developing the structures of a parallel country in readiness for freedom. It has expanded the inland revenue department, as well as other parts of the regional administration, and established “embassies” in a number of foreign capitals. Under article 155, it is likely that everything of this will be dismantled.
The Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, accused the government of “totalitarianism” and a spokesman for the leftwing Podemos party, Pablo Echenique, said that Rajoy wanted to “humiliate” Catalonia. Echenique tweeted:” The most corrupt party in Europe, which has 8.5% of the vote in Catalonia and is going to govern it. A dreadful period for any democrat .”
Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, called the move” an attack on everyone’s rights and freedoms “.
Rajoy has the support of most of the opposition, King Felipe and the EU, whose commanders rendered him their backing at Friday’s Council of Europe meeting.
On Friday Felipe, who already faces criticism for his apparently partisan substantiate of the governmental forces over the illegal Catalan referendum, said:” Spain has to confront the unacceptable strive at secession by a part of the national territory .”
Recent government acts- the police violence aimed at thwarting the independence referendum, prison the leaders of the two major pro-independence organisations, the threat to jail the popular Catalan chief of police, and now section 155- all serve to reinforce the secessionists’ narrative of repression and colonisation by an anti-Catalan Spanish regime.