Madrid poised to impose direct rule
Spain is set to enter uncharted territory as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy prepares to carry out his threat to crush Catalonia’s demand for independence by imposing direct rule.
Inigo Mendez de Vigo, the Spanish government’s chief spokesman, said Madrid would decide whether to oust the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont today (Thursday).
Puigdemont has been told he has until this morning to withdraw his bid for independence or face direct rule.
The Catalan president has proposed that the effects of an independence declaration be suspended for two months while both sides hold talks to resolve the standoff.
The independence referendum on October 1 plunged Spain into its worst political crisis since its return to democracy after 1975.
“The important thing is to restore the rule of law for all Catalans and not only those Catalans who want to be independent,” Mendez de Vigo told Bloomberg.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been threatening to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which imposes direct control of a region to defend the national interest. Rajoy has been trying to persuade the Catalan leaders to back down to avoid further confrontations.
Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Rajoy asked Puigdemont’s Catalan colleagues to persuade him “not to make any more problems” that would “oblige the government to make decisions that would be better never to make”.
Spain’s delicate federal balance was established after the dictator General Franco died in 1975 after naming former king, Juan Carlos, as his successor. It was widely assumed Spanish autocracy would continue as Franco had groomed Juan Carlos to continue his authoritarian rule.
Juan Carlos, however, brought about a democratic transition. Political parties were legalised, and a constitution was written and approved in 1978. The first democratic administration took office in 1982.
Tensions in Catalonia rose this week after a judge at Spain’s national court refused bail to two Catalan independence leaders who are being investigated for alleged sedition.
Jordi Sánchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly, and Jordi Cuixart, chief of Òmnium Cultural, are accused of using protests to hamper Spanish police efforts to halt the referendum.
Their detention prompted rallies across Catalonia on Tuesday as Spain’s constitutional court annulled the Catalan law that allowed the referendum, adding that the right to “promote and enact the unilateral secession” of a region was not recognised in the constitution.
Voting in Barcelona on October 1. Picture credit: Wikimedia