Spain’s Prime Minister is set to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule over Catalonia on Saturday, in an unprecedented move never seen before in the country’s democracy. Mariano Rajoy is to hold a Cabinet meeting on Saturday to trigger Article 155 – which has been described as the ‘nuclear option’.
Article 155 became a democratic rule in 1978 after the death of dictator General Franco and allows Madrid to impose direct rule in a situation, although it has never been invoked before.
It comes after Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont refused to clarify whether he has made a declaration of independence or not.
Catalonia President Puigdemont today threatened to explicitly declare independence if no talks offered, in letter to Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Both the Spanish prime minister and the deputy prime minister have earlier said that the government is prepared to apply Article 155 of the Constitution and temporarily suspend the autonomy of the Catalan region in the northeast of the country.
Should Madrid invoke the article, it would not fully come into effect until early next week as it needs parliamentary approval.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government has threatened to apply the measure unless Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont clarifies, by 10 am (8 GMT), on Thursday whether or not he had declared the independence of the region on October 10 and to retract that declaration if that is indeed the case.
An earlier deadline passed on Monday with Puigdemont sending a letter to Rajoy asking for dialogue, but without clarifying the situation. Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said on Tuesday that Puigdemont would “not alter” his current position but would again offer a dialogue to Rajoy on Thursday.
Speaking in the Control Session of the Spanish Congress on Wednesday morning, Rajoy insisted that was not enough and went on to say that, “Tomorrow ends the time required for Puigdemont. He has the opportunity to make clear whether or not he declared independence.”
Rajoy then added that, if a reply was not forthcoming, his government had “the obligation to defend the rights of all Spanish people.”
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that unless Puigdemont attended to the question, “it will mean Article 155 is applied … We will always apply the Spanish Constitution and applying Article 155 is applying the Constitution,” she added.
The Catalan region held an independence referendum on October 1, after which it was ruled illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court on Tuesday and was described as “one of the biggest affronts to the Spanish Constitution from a regional parliament.”
In Barcelona on Wednesday night, Puigdemont told members of his Catalan Democratic Party that he would move forward with a more formal independence declaration if Spain’s central government took steps to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy.
“The president said [at] his party’s meeting that he will lift the suspension of the independence declaration if the government executes Article 155,” a Catalan government source told Reuters news agency.