By Alyssa McMurtry
The Spanish government passed measures on Saturday that aim to force the dismissal of leaders in the Catalan parliament and trigger regional elections within six months.
These measures come after the northeastern region of Spain, led by a separatist government, held an unconstitutional referendum on independence. And despite a police crackdown at the polls, 43 percent of the Catalan electorate voted, 90 percent of whom voted in favor of the creation of a Catalan republic, according to the Catalan government, which has said it considered it as a mandate to declare independence.
Yet, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is taking drastic measures to prevent the region from breaking away.“We are applying article 155 because no government in a democratic country can accept that the law is ignored,” announced
Rajoy at a news conference on Saturday, following the emergency cabinet meeting. Article 155 of the Spanish constitution gives Spain’s central government the power to take control of a noncompliant region. In the measures outlined
Saturday, the prime minister said once Article 155 takes effect -- after it goes through a vote in Spain’s senate -- it does not aim to suspend the region’s autonomy, “but dismiss the people who have put the Catalan government outside of the law”.
Rajoy said Catalonia’s president, vice president, and government ministers are to be dismissed and that their roles will be taken over by Spain’s corresponding ministers. The Spanish government will also be able to dissolve Catalonia’s parliament and trigger regional elections within six months. The rest of the Catalan public administrations are to continue “ordinarily” but will act under control of the new administrators, designated by the Spanish government.
Rajoy said the purpose of the measures is to restore legality, return to social normality, bring economic recovery and to hold elections as soon as possible. But a pro-independence party spokesman has accused Rajoy of starting a “coup d’etat in Catalonia”.“This smells like Francoism, we’ve returned to 1975,” said Josep Lluís Cleries, spokesman for pro-independence Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) in the Spanish senate said in a news conference following the announcement.