- Andrea Comas / Reuters
- Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, condemned Catalonia’s leaders on Friday as he prepares to call for regional elections in January. Rajoy also plans to invoke a section of the constitution that would strip Catalonia of its autonomy. This unprecedented move is likely to worsen one of Europe’s biggest political crises in years.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is preparing to call for elections to be held in Catalonia next year, effectively stripping the Catalan government of its powers.
This is an unprecedented move that will likely put a major dent in the region’s push for independence.
Rajoy plans to formally invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution to force Catalan officials, who advocate for the creation of an independent Catalonia, out of power. Special elections in January would likely dissolve Catalonia’s parliament and squash hopes for future independence.
“The goal is a double one,” Rajoy said during a press conference in Brussels on Friday. “To return to the observance of the law – because you can’t have a part of the country where the law is not obeyed – and, at the same time, to bring about a return to institutional normality.”
He then laid blame on regional leaders for escalating the crisis.
“The ones to blame are the ones who didn’t follow the law,” Rajoy said.
- Susana Vera/Reuters
The Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, has led the independence push and refused to back down. He says the independence referendum that was held on October 1, in which 90% of voters chose “yes,” gives him the mandate to break away from Spain.
Spain’s government has rejected the referendum, calling it unconstitutional.
In a rare televised speech earlier this month, Spain’s King Felipe VI echoed similar criticisms.
“Certain authorities in Catalonia have repeatedly, consciously and deliberately not complied with the constitution,” the king said. “They have systematically violated legally and legitimately approved rules, showing an inadmissible disloyalty toward the powers of the state.”
The desire of many Catalans to declare independence has not only intensified divisions among Spaniards, but helped mold one of Europe’s biggest political crises in decades.
“A bad situation has become even worse today,” Argelia Queralt, a University of Barcelona professor, told The New York Times. “Neither side seems really willing to yield an inch, which means there is only a very limited chance of any positive outcome to this conflict.”
After the referendum, massive protests erupted in Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital city, over police violence against voters. During the vote, police tried to prevent people from accessing the ballot by beating people with batons and shooting rubber bullets.
A Spanish government representative later apologized for the violence that broke out, but tensions still remain as high and are unlikely to go away anytime soon.