Madrid, Oct 21 (IANS) The Spanish government on Saturday began a special cabinet meeting to approve measures to take direct control of the semi-autonomous region of Catalonia, the media reported.
At a press conference after the meeting, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the decision on whether to activate Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 Constitution, a mechanism that strips Catalonia’s self-governing institutions of their autonomy, allowing it to take over running of the region, in response to the region’s recent independence bid.
The government said the application of the article was justified by the “rebellious, systematic and conscious disobedience” shown by the Catalan regional government to its legal obligations and by the fact that its actions were considered to gravely threaten Spain’s general interests, reports Efe news.
Once the measures are approved by the council of ministers, they are to be voted on by the Senate on October 27.
On Friday, Rajoy refused to give any details on what initiatives might be taken or whether his conservative Popular Party had made a deal with any other parties, though the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) claimed they had agreed that regional elections would be held in Catalonia in January.
He had said that the government was being forced to act in what he described as a critical situation.
However, Rajoy insisted that Article 155 would be a final measure applied only if a situation where legislation was under attack and the rule of law was being eradicated.
“There cannot be areas where the government does not follow the law, because if the government does not follow the law, then how can we ask citizens to do so?” he said.
On October 1, Catalonia held an independence referendum deemed unconstitutional by the Spanish judiciary in which a majority of voters cast their ballots in favour of leaving Spain.
Of the 43 per cent of Catalans said to have taken part, 90 per cent voted in favour of independence. But many anti-independence supporters boycotted the ballot, arguing it was not valid.
On October 10, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont declared independence but immediately suspended it in order to hold talks with Madrid.
The central government asked him to clarify whether he had fully declared independence or not, warning that if the answer was yes, Article 155 would be put in motion.
Puigdemont has argued that the referendum result gave him a mandate to pursue independence.