Posted on Oct 21, 2017
The Spanish government is to dismiss Catalonia’s secessionist leadership, and force the region into a new election, it announced today (Oct 21st).
The plan, which would first require parliamentary approval, is Madrid’s bid to resolve the country’s worst political crisis in four decades, but it risks an angry reaction from independence supporters, who planned street protests later in the day, Reuters has reported.
Outlining the cabinet’s decision, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Catalonia, which accounts for around 20% of the Spanish economy, was already in worrying economic shape as a result of the regional government’s push for independence.
“We will ask the Senate, with the aim of protecting the general interest of the nation, to authorise the government ... to sack the Catalan president and his government,” Rajoy told a news conference.
Spain’s upper house of parliament is scheduled to vote on the plan next Friday.
It is the first time since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 1970s that the central government has invoked the constitutional right to take control of a region.
Direct rule will give Madrid full control of the region’s finances, police and public media and curb the powers of the regional parliament after it allowed an independence referendum that Madrid declared illegal.
Rajoy said he did not intend to use the special powers for more than six months and he would call a regional election as soon as the situation was back to normal.
“Our objective is to restore the law and a normal cohabitation among citizens, which has deteriorated a lot, continue with the economic recovery, which is under threat today in Catalonia, and celebrate elections in a situation of normality,” Rajoy said.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was due to deliver an address later today after meeting with his government, his office said. He was also due to join the protests in Barcelona.
Puigdemont made a symbolic declaration of independence on Oct. 10, and on Thursday he threatened to press ahead with a more formal one unless the government agreed to a dialogue.
The Catalan parliament is expected to decide on Monday whether to hold a plenary session to formally proclaim the republic of Catalonia.
Catalan media have said Puigdemont could decide to dissolve the regional parliament himself immediately after independence is proclaimed and call elections before the Spanish senate makes direct rule effective.
Under Catalan law, those elections would take place within two months.
Pro-independence parties said the move from the centre-right government of the People’s Party (PP) showed the Spanish state was no longer democratic.
“The Spanish government has carried out a coup against a democratic and legal majority,” Marta Rovira, a lawmaker from Catalan government party Esquerra Republica de Catalunya, tweeted.
Anti-capitalist party CUP, which backs the pro-independence minority government in the regional assembly said: “Taken over but never defeated. Popular unity for the Republic now. Not a single step back.”
Catalan authorities said about 90 percent of those who voted in the referendum on Oct. 1 opted for independence. But only 43 percent of the electorate participated, with opponents of secession mostly staying at home.
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