In a bold stroke to quash a popular secessionist movement in restive Catalonia, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed Saturday to sack the region’s leaders, assert control over the upstart government, and press for a fresh round of elections within months.
The sweeping declaration by the central government to invoke unprecedented powers upon an autonomous region – and sweep aside its elected leaders – surprised Barcelona, where many people were expecting more incremental steps from Madrid.
Madrid’s announcement came after an emergency cabinet meeting Saturday when government ministers emerged with a get-tough response to the Catalan independence referendum three weeks ago, which Spain’s constitutional court had declared illegal.
Rajoy said he would ask the Spanish senate to take the unprecedented step of invoking Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution, which allows the central government to suspend the region’s autonomy.
A vote in the Spanish parliament could come within days.
It is not yet clear exactly what Madrid will do in Catalonia or when. It is possible that the central government will take over regional ministries, including the police force and Catalan public broadcasters.
Rajoy insisted that Madrid was not seizing control of Catalonia, merely demanding new leadership.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · William Booth, Pamela Rolfe, James Mcauley