Spain to grab Catalonia powers as crisis intensifies

Protester held a Catalonian independence flag toward riot police during demonstrations Thursday

Protester held a Catalonian independence flag toward riot police during demonstrations Thursday

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says he wants the Senate to give him direct power to dissolve the regional Catalan government and to call an early election as soon as possible.

Madrid enjoys constitutional powers to wrest back control of rebellious regions in one of the Western world's most decentralised nations, but it has never used them.

The decision to press for the abolition of the Catalan leadership, impose direct rule and push for elections within six months followed a special cabinet meeting on Saturday morning, nearly three weeks after the controversial independence referendum took place.

The Spanish government is activating a previously untapped constitutional article to take control of the Catalonia region in a bid to stop a rebellion from separatist politicians.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont called for a meeting of the autonomous community's parliament to discuss measures that could be taken in response to the Spanish government's decision to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. If the answer on his part will not, the government may, with the approval of the absolute majority of the Senate to take the necessary steps to perform an offline community above obligations under compulsion or for the protection of the mentioned national interests.

Regional authorities said about 90 percent of those who cast ballots voted for independence.

"And at the same time we need to return to institutional normality".

"We are not suspending Catalonia's autonomy nor its self-governance".

The Spanish senate is expected to meet next Friday to address the measure.

Mr Rajoy has stopped short of dissolving Catalonia's parliament but will hold elections for the region within six months.

It later emerged the government will be able to substitute members of the local Mossos d'Esquadra police force - strongly criticised outside Catalonia for their alleged lack of cooperation in stopping the banned October 1st referendum - with officers from the Guardia Civil or National Police.

El Pais, the Spanish newspaper, reports that the government will have the ability to take control of TV3, the primary television channel of Catalan public broadcaster Televisió de Catalunya, "to ensure the transmission of 'truthful and objective information balanced".

Catalonia now has significant autonomy from Spain, including control over its own policing, education and health care. They then declared that the result - strongly in favor of independence - gave them a legal basis for separating from Spain even though the vote itself had numerous problems.

Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras said new elections were "not the best way of moving forward".

Bartomeu said Saturday that "the fact that people have been imprisoned for their political ideas is unacceptable in the 21st century".

Although Mr Rajoy underlined he had the support of both the Socialist Party and Ciudadanos, Spain's fourth largest political grouping, the measures were described as "authoritarian and a botched job." by the left-wing Podemos coalition.

It has also led Madrid to cut economic growth forecasts and prompted hundreds of firms to move their headquarters from Catalonia.

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