Thursday 21 June 2018

Rajoy’s plan: Spanish prime minister outlines sweeping powers to crush the rebellion

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina

These are some of the regional powers Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is seeking by triggering Article 155 to crush the separatist movement:

Depose leaders

First, Mr Rajoy wants to remove the members of Catalonia's pro-independence government. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, vice-president Oriol Junqueras, and the 12 regional ministers claim Catalonia is sovereign and not subject to Spanish law.

Impose control

Catalonia has secured the ability to govern itself in many areas since democracy returned to Spain following the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975. Education, health and policing are areas in which the region enjoys self-rule.

Mr Rajoy proposes taking over the regional administration and its 200,000 civil servants after the top officials are removed. How Madrid's management would work is unclear. One option would be for Spanish ministries to assume direct control of their regional counterparts.

Timetable for takeover

A commission of 27 senators will assess Mr Rajoy's request tomorrow. Regional president Mr Puigdemont will have the chance to argue his case before the Senate on Thursday before it holds a vote expected on Friday.

Difficult to enforce

Political observers across the ideological spectrum agree Mr Rajoy and his government may have to resort to using force if Catalonia's leaders disobey orders to step down. Calls for resistance and disobedience have become standard in the secessionist camp.

Hardcore separatists will put intense pressure on Mr Puigdemont and his government to stay in office. There are fears such a stand-off could lead to violent police raids like those that marred the referendum.

Snap elections

In all 17 of Spain's regions, the right to call early regional elections belongs exclusively to regional leaders. Mr Rajoy wants that right passed to him temporarily in Catalonia. His request includes a commitment to call for regional elections within six months.

Limits on legislation

While the prime minister isn't asking to dissolve the Catalan parliament, Mr Rajoy wants to limit what it can do. Specifically, the parliament would not be able to designate a new regional president until after Mr Rajoy calls for new elections.

Catalonia's Parliament also would not be allowed to pass laws countering the Article 155 measures.

Police

Catalonia and the Basque Country are Spain's only regions with their own fully deployed police forces. Spain wants to take direct control of Catalonia's police, and warns it will consider increasing the presence of the National Police and Civil Guard. Police chief Josep Trapero is already under investigation for sedition by a Spanish judge.

Finances

Spain will increase its supervision of the region's finances, specifically to ensure that no public funds or revenues are used to promote a campaign for secession. Madrid put a large portion of Catalonia's budget under its direct supervision in the run-up to the October 1 referendum in an attempt to stop the vote from occurring in the first place.

Public media

Under Mr Rajoy's plan, Spanish authorities will also oversee the running of Catalonia's public television and radio stations, which have been major proponents of secession.

Irish Independent

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