Spanish government and opposition PSOE agree on taking control of Catalan presidency, public TV and police

Madrid executive and Socialist party to call snap election in Catalonia in January 2018

The Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, shaking hands with the leader of the Spanish Socialist Party, Pedro Sánchez
The Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, shaking hands with the leader of the Spanish Socialist Party, Pedro Sánchez / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 20, 2017 11:44 AM

Direct rule of Catalonia is taking shape. The Spanish government and the main opposition party in Spain, the Socialists, agreed on Friday morning on taking control of the Catalan presidency, public TV and police. The plans of Mariano Rajoy’s cabinet and PSOE party also include calling snap elections in Catalonia in January 2018. Because the law states that the Catalan president is the only authority with powers to call elections, it will be necessary to activate article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which allows the Spanish government to impose direct rule of Catalonia, in order to hold a Catalan election from Madrid.

Mariano Rajoy’s executive has been threatening to apply Article 155 for several days. Following Carles Puigdemont’s speech in the Catalan parliament on October 10, in which he suspended the declaration of independence, Madrid sent two letters to Barcelona officially requesting whether independence had already been declared.

Puigdemont’s call for dialogue

Puigdemont responded calling for dialogue, asking for a meeting with Mariano Rajoy and stating that the Parliament hadn’t voted on the issue on October 10. However, on Thursday the Spanish executive considered its request had not been answered and confirmed that Article 155 would be invoked.

No time limit for direct rule

Madrid’s cabinet will meet on Saturday to agree on the specific measures to be taken regarding Catalonia. It is expected to announce several takeovers, including the territory’s presidency, police and television station. A Socialist spokeswoman, Carmen Calvo, confirmed this information on Friday. She said that seizing power of the public broadcaster is on the grounds of guaranteeing “neutrality.” An election in Catalonia is planned to be called directly from Madrid in January 2018, although the Spanish president said that there is no time limit set for direct rule of Catalonia. 

Catalan Minister of Economy also threatened

Not only is Spain planning these measures, but it is also planning on replacing the minister of economy, Oriol Junqueras, who is also the Catalan vice president, according to sources in Spain’s finance ministry.

The Spanish Senate must ratify these unprecedented measures before they can go into effect. Since 8 out of 10 senators are either members of the Socialists party or the ruling People’s Party, there is no doubt that they have the capacity to approve the measures, However it is not entirely clear when the vote might take place. The most likely date is October 27, but some parliamentary procedures will need to take place beforehand.

Putting the series of measures in place will still stretch on for a few days. As a result, the Socialist spokeswoman asked the Catalan president to call elections himself now to avoid direct rule at the last minute.

Catalan Parliament to declare independence

Yet the plans in Barcelona are different: next Monday the Catalan parliament bureau will meet and presumably agree on calling a plenary session. Puigdemont and the main pro-independence actors want to declare independence before direct rule prevents them from doing so.

Pressure on Catalan Socialists in Barcelona

In addition, the coalition ruling the city council of the Catalan capital might fall apart. Mayor Ada Colau’s party is in power together with the Catalan Socialists, who are supporting the application of Article 155. On Friday she warned that if they do not back out, she might consider breaking their alliance.