Self-government at stake as time runs out
Uncertainty reigns over Catalonia’s political future in latest clash with Madrid
Thursday October 19 at 10am is the deadline the Spanish government has given Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to clarify whether he declared independence. It is the final step before the implementation of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, and the suspension of Catalonia’s self-rule. Yet, on Wednesday, the government in Madrid added a new element: the executive is willing to hold off applying article 155 in exchange for Puigdemont calling fresh regional elections, something the Catalan government says it is not planning to do.
The countdown to the deadline issued by Spanish president Mariano Rajoy dominated debate in the Spanish Parliament on Wednesday, both in the chamber and in the corridors, with disagreement over the extent of article 155. Some sources argued it would entirely disable the Catalan government, while others suggested only certain reserved powers would be affected. Treasury sources insisted that Catalan finance minister and vice president, Oriol Junqueras, would be replaced by a substitute designated by the Spanish government.
Fresh elections “not on the table”
Meanwhile, the Catalan executive prefers to wait and see. Government sources say that right now there are no plans for early elections, with the priority being to respect the mandate from the October 1 independence referendum. From Brussels, Catalan foreign affairs minister, Raül Romeva, denied that fresh elections “were on the table." At the same time, the pro-independence JxSí and CUP parties are discussing how to implement the referendum mandate, with CUP insisting the intention is to proclaim the republic in the “next few days."
Rajoy meets opposition leaders
Also on Wednesday, Rajoy spoke to PSOE leader, Pedro Sánchez, and the leader of Cs, Albert Rivera, to agree on the conditions for a possible application of article 155. While Sánchez gave his support to the idea of halting implementation of 155 in the case of new elections, he revealed no other details of the conversation. According to sources in Cs, Rajoy agreed at the meeting with Rivera that he would keep the Cs party informed about the steps the Spanish government takes in “the technical application of 155 in the next few hours."
Should the Spanish government decide to go ahead with implementing article 155, definitive approval of the measures required for it are likely to take place in the Senate on Thursday and Friday next week, October 26 and 27. A joint Senate commission representing Spain’s regional heads would be set up to pass the measures, with a plenary session of the Senate to follow in which the final approval of the measures would take place.