Article 155: How Spain is taking control of Catalan powers
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he would ask the Spanish senate to take the unprecedented step of invoking Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution, which allows the central government to suspend the region’s autonomy
Spain announced drastic measures Saturday to stop Catalan leaders from pressing ahead with independence, moving to dismiss the region’s separatist government, taking control of all ministries and calling fresh elections.
The measures still have to be submitted for approval to Spain’s Senate, but the upper house is majority-controlled by members of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party and he has secured the support of other major parties, meaning they will almost certainly go through.
So what exactly do these proposals entail?
The Spanish government has asked the Senate to dismiss the entire Catalan regional executive, including president Carles Puigdemont and vice-president Oriol Junqueras.
They will be replaced by nominees from the central government. Rajoy told reporters the idea is for national ministries to take over for as long as this “exceptional situation” lasts.
Madrid has also asked that Rajoy be given the power to dissolve the Catalan parliament and call regional elections “in a maximum time frame of six months from the Senate’s approval”. This is normally Puigdemont’s remit.
It is not only the Catalan government that is affected. Madrid has also asked for permission to substitute anyone that works in public entities that come under the regional government if needed, such as the region’s broadcasters.
Catalan police force
Under the proposed measures, Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, would come under direct Madrid control.
Whoever is named to take the reins of the regional interior ministry will “give members of Catalonia’s police – the Mossos d’Esquadra – direct instructions they will have to comply with”, according to the government document setting out the plans.
If necessary, members of the Catalan force can also “be replaced by state security forces”, according to the document.
There is no explicit mention of Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, who faces sedition charges for allegedly failing to stop a banned independence referendum on October 1.
But the person put in charge of the regional interior ministry will have the power to replace him with someone else.
Analyst: Independent Catalonia is economic suicide
Madrid had already seized control of wide areas of Catalan public spending in September, seeking in vain to stop the referendum taking place.
It will now seek full control over the region’s finances, including budgets and tax, to ensure that not a single euro of public money can be spent on efforts to break away.
Telecommunications and media
“Telecommunications and digital services” will also come under Madrid’s governance.
That includes the Telecommunications and Information Technology Centre, which controls all of the Catalan government’s telecoms and online services.
Under the proposed measures, the heads or employees of Catalan public media can be replaced.
The Spanish government says it wants to “guarantee the transmission of truthful, objective and balanced information, which respects political, social and cultural pluralism, and also the territorial balance”.
This means Madrid will also have a say in what is broadcast on popular Catalan television channels such as TV3.
Unions at TV3 have accused the channel of broadcasting biased information in favour of independence, just as unions of the Spain-wide TVE news channel have accused it of being biased in favour of Madrid.
Madrid has also proposed to take control of the Catalan parliament’s activity, where pro-independence lawmakers have an absolute majority of 72 seats out of 135.
The Spanish government has not called for Carme Forcadell, the head of the Catalan parliament and a staunch independence supporter, to be replaced.
But it stipulates the regional parliament “won’t be able to process initiatives that run counter” to the proposed measures.
To ensure this, the central government wants to appoint an entity that will ensure every single text being processed through parliament conforms to the measures.
This includes bills submitted to the regional parliament until the elections.