Spanish government meets to impose direct rule in rebel Catalonia

Geneva Matthews
October 22, 2017

Catalonia's leader accused Madrid on Saturday of waging the "worst attack" on his region since dictator Francisco Franco after the central government took drastic measures to stop it from breaking away.

In particular, the Spanish government announced its decision to dissolve the Catalan government and hold a snap election to the regional parliament as soon as possible. These are: to return to legality; to restore normality and coexistence in Catalonia: to continue the region's economic recovery; and to hold elections in conditions of normality.

Catalan government number two Oriol Junqueras reacted furiously, posting on his Twitter account: "Today the PP and its allies have not only suspended autonomy, they have suspended democracy".

The vice president of the Senate says a session next Friday will vote on the measures. This would happen happen in the coming days, Rajoy said.

Spain's prime minister says he has approved implementing the previously-unused Article 155 of the country's constitution, allowing such measures.

The Madrid government announced Thursday that it would invoke Article 155, a provision that allows the central government to suspend the autonomy of the Catalan regional administration.

"I ask the parliament to meet in a plenary session during which we, the representatives of the citizens' sovereignty, will be able to decide over this attempt to liquidate our government and our democracy and act in outcome", Puigdemont said in a televised speech.

Rajoy's Popular Party has a majority in the Senate.

On Thursday, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont threatened that the region could formally declare independence if the Spanish government did not engage in dialogue.

"Spain needs to face up to an unacceptable secession attempt on its national territory, which it will resolve using legitimate democratic institutions, respecting our constitution, adhering to the values and principles of the parliamentary democracy in which we have lived for 39 years", Felipe said.

Activist organizations ANC and Omnium have called on their supporters to rally at 1500 GMT in Barcelona, the region's principal city, in protest at the jailing of their leaders over sedition accusations.

In an effort to derail the independence movement led by the separatist politicians, Rajoy is also seeking the Senate's approval next week to assume the power to call a regional election - something that only Catalonia's top leader can do at the moment.

Mr Rajoy was notably scant on details and long on justification for direct rule in his speech, essentially limiting his much-anticipated package of specific measures to a broad-brushed description of the whys and wherefores for his government's substitution of the nationalist ministers.

The slow-burning constitutional crisis over secession escalated this month when regional government officials held a disputed independence referendum on October 1.

Amid the uncertainty, businesses have started to move their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, Spain's wealthiest region. The referendum has been deemed illegal by the central Spanish authorities.

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