Madrid is ready to restore rule of law
Ultimatum on Catalonia expired, Article 155 is on the move
20 October, 2017
The Catalan crisis nears a breaking point as the Spanish government last Thursday announced it will hold an extraordinary cabinet meeting on 21 October to trigger procedures to suspend home rule in the province. "The Spanish government will continue with the procedures foreseen by Article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in the self-government of Catalonia," a statement said.
It was issued after Catalan President Carles Puigdemont failed to respond by 0800 GMT on Thursday to the ultimatum from Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy to formally set aside his region's secessionist plans. Instead of a clear answer, Catalonia’s leader threatened to explicitly declare independence if no talks with the central government were offered. Puigdemont’s warning came in a letter to Mariano Rajoy with minutes to spare before the expiration of the deadline set by the central government for him to backtrack on his calls for secession.
The Article 155 allows for central authorities to take over the semi-autonomous powers of any of the country’s 17 regions, including Catalonia. Such measure has never been used in the four decades since democracy was restored at the end of Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, observers noted.
At a press conference later on Thursday, a government spokesman said Madrid deplores the attitude of the Catalan government. “We will take all measures to restore peaceful coexistence of all citizens,” he said. PM Mariano Rajoy would have to submit the procedure for activating the Article 155 to the Upper House, detailing the specific actions that the government is planning to take. Then the separate committee within the Senate that deals with autonomous communities, like Catalonia, have to pronounce on the act, before finally being debated by the Senate. The ruling Popular Party’s majority in the top chamber would be enough to approve the measure, but Rajoy held discussions with opposition leaders to rally support. He already was backed by the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) and centre-right group Ciudadanos to apply Article 155.
In any case, the actual triggering of the clause in question, defined as a bomb, will take weeks. The main concern remains how the proponents of Catalonia's independence will respond.
Catalonia has 7.5m people and accounts for almost 20% of the Spanish economy. Its nationalist pride is boosted by a separate language and culture, but surveys suggest that its society is deeply split on secession, with a slight majority for the unionists.