MADRID, SPAIN (OCTOBER 21, 2017) (SPANISH GOVERNMENT TV POOL) – The Spanish government decided on Saturday (October 21) to sack the secessionist leadership of Catalonia and force the region into a new election, saying it had to take the unprecedented step to prevent the region pushing ahead with independence.
The plan, which still requires the approval of the upper house Senate, seeks to resolve Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades but risks an angry reaction from independence supporters, who plan street protests later in the day.
In outlining the cabinet’s decision, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the Catalan economy, which accounts for a fifth of the national economy, was already in worrying shape as a result of the regional’s government push for independence.
It is the first time since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 1970s that the central government has invoked the constitutional right to take control of a region and rule it directly from Madrid.
Direct rule will include full control of the region’s police, finances and public media. The powers of the regional parliament will also be curbed.
Rajoy said his intention was to not use those special powers for more than six months and he would call a regional election as soon as the situation was back to “normal.”
The measures must now be approved by Spain’s upper house, the Senate, where a vote is scheduled for Oct. 27.
Rajoy has insisted that Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who heads the northeastern region’s government, has broken the law several times in pushing for independence, including with a referendum on Oct. 1 that the government declared illegal.