“The best way we have to defend the achievements to date is the democratic opposition to the application of Article 155,” Puigdemont said in reference to the constitutional clause that gave Madrid direct control of affairs in Catalonia.
Despite his defiant tone and the use of the official Catalan government emblem, the Catalan and European Union flags but no sign of the Spanish one, some political commentator saw in his mention of “democratic opposition” as laying the groundwork for political campaigning for the regional election in less than two months.
There was no immediate sign they intended to comply with the orders. The Catalan Cabinet met Friday, but didn’t make any public appearances or offer statements following Rajoy’s announcement of the planned government takeover. Spanish prosecutors say that top Catalan officials could face rebellion charges as soon as Monday.
Beyond any possible resistance from top Catalan officials, it’s unclear how Rajoy’s government in Madrid will be able to exert its control at lower levels of Catalonia’s vast regional administration.
Catalonia had secured the ability to govern itself in many areas, including education, health and policing, since democracy returned to Spain following the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.
Some among Catalonia’s roughly 200,000 civil servants have said they will refuse to obey orders from Madrid. They risk being punished or even fired under the special powers granted to central authorities by the nation’s Senate on Friday.
This is it.
The news that Spain has been trying to avoid for over a century. Catalan (or Catalonia) is the wealthiest region of Spain, a beautiful land in the Northeast corner of the Iberian peninsula.
The people of Catalan are overtaxed and their cultural heritage (while Spanish, the culture is quite distinct from Castillian Spanish, which centers around Madrid) has been largely ignored outside of Catalan.
They are a people who are tired of being marginalized and ignored.
Now, they have declared themselves an independent nation and they are hoping that the rest of Europe will defend them from the coming conflict with the Spanish government.
On Thursday, the President of Catalan decided against declaring Independence or calling for a referendum on the issue and instead argued that the legislature should decide the fate of the region. On Friday morning the Catalan state legislature voted 70 – 10 with 2 abstentions and the opposition party boycotting the vote (the opposition represents 53 seats in Parliament), to declare Independence from Spain.
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, tweeted immediately after the vote calling for calm. He said the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia.
Spain’s senate voted on Friday, shortly after the Catalan independence vote, to trigger Article 155 of the constitution and allow the imposition of direct rule.
The vote will give Madrid the authority to govern Catalonia is the first direct intervention by central authorities in the affairs of one of the country’s 17 autonomous areas.
Mr Rajoy will have the power to sack Mr Puigdemont and his cabinet among other measures. Mr Rajoy is understood to be planning immediately to enact the Article 155 provisions during an urgent meeting on Friday afternoon.
Hopefully, the situation can be resolved without violence, but if the situation that played out on the day of the referendum a few weeks ago is an indicator, things could get ugly.