The Spanish government is set to take unprecedented steps to seize powers from Catalonia’s separatist government after Madrid won backing from the king and the EU in its battle to keep the country together.
SPANISH GOVERNMENT MEETS TO IMPOSE DIRECT RULE IN CATALONIA
The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has gathered his cabinet this morning to set out the specific powers that will be removed from the wealthy north-east region, which enjoys wide autonomy, including control over its own policing, education and healthcare.
It will be the first time in Spain’s four decades of democracy that Madrid has invoked the constitutional right to take control of a region and rule it directly from Madrid.
Independence supporters are due to rally in the Catalan capital Barcelona on Saturday afternoon.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insists that Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who heads the wealthy northeastern region’s government, has broken the law several times in pushing for independence, thus justifying the imposition of central government control.
Direct rule would be temporary and could range from dismissing the regional government to a softer approach of removing heads of specific departments.
The exact measures must be agreed and voted upon in Spain’s upper house, the Senate, and Rajoy wants the broadest consensus possible.
The main opposition Socialists said on Friday they would back special measures and had agreed on the holding of regional elections in January.
The government declined to confirm this, saying only that regional elections were likely and the details would be announced on Saturday.
Rajoy received the backing of the head of state, King Felipe, on Friday, who said at a public ceremony that “Catalonia is and will remain an essential part” of Spain.
“Spain needs to face up to an unacceptable secession attempt on its national territory, which it will resolve through its legitimate democratic institutions,” said the king, a ceremonial figure who had criticized Catalan leaders earlier this month.