Contributed by Joe Montero
After a Cabinet meeting on Saturday, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced his intention to ask the country’s Senate next Friday, to approve Article 155 of the country’s constitution, to assume control over Catalonia’s regional government.
The intention is to transfer power from Catalan officials to Madrid and perhaps eventually call fresh regional elections. There is an expectation that pro-independence political parties will be banned.
Rajoy’s latest move comes after the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont had not responded on a demand to publicly announce an end to the bid for independence by the deadline.
During a turbulent week, two Catalan separatist leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, and the head of the Catalan police force, Josep Lluís Trapero, are being investigated for Sedition, with the first two being under detention with no bail, accused of both calling demonstrations and participating in the organisation of the 1 October independence ballot. Trapero is accused of failing to order the regional police to back up the national paramilitary Civil Guard and National Police.
This triggered a new wave of massive protests in the streets, in support of the men who are now regarded as political prisoners. More arrests are expected.
Rajoy went to Brussels to get clear support from European leaders, which for the most part, are still effusing to become involved in what they say is an internal matter for Spain.
Puigdemont has angrily denounced Rajoy, accusing him of setting out to ‘humiliate’ Catalonia in an ‘attack on democracy’ and the “’worst attack against the institutions and the people of Catalonia since the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco”.
He added: ‘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 consequence’.
Saturday’s announcement triggered more big protests in Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia.
In a call to action, Carme Forcade, the speaker of the Catalan parliament called the move by Madrid was a “coup” and added:
“This is why we want to send to the citizens of this country a message of firmness and hope. We commit today, after the most serious attack against the Catalan institutions since they were restored, to the defense of the sovereignty of the parliament of Catalonia”.
People responded by coming out in the streets agian in big numbers and banged pots and pans and honked car horns, to show their support for the cause.
One possible strategy for the Catalan government is to call an early election itself, before Madrid can enact its own measures. This would take advantage of the high-level anger in the region over the central government’s handling of the crisis that exists, even amongst many of those who are not traditional supporters of independence.
Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can), has responded to Rajoy’s announcement by stating that it will do all it can to bring down Rajoy and his government.
Its rival new party, the pro-austerity Ciudedanos (Citizens), born as an Catalan anti-independence party, has sided with Rajoy. So has the Socialist Party, driven by its own antipathy for independence, dooged adherence to maintaining the two party system and reluctance to take any action that might lead to an election where it is expected to do badly. It has maintained the conservative Rajoy government in office as a minority government and is continuing with this strategy.
So far there hasn’t been a repeat the brutal response that occurred on the 1 October referendum day, although the thousands of paramilitary Civil guard and National Police sent there remain in place. This could change any day.
Video by BTMG