International desk, October 21: The Spanish government decided on Saturday to sack the secessionist leadership of Catalonia and force the region into a new election, saying it had to take the unprecedented step to prevent the region pushing ahead with independence.
The plan, which still requires the approval of the upper house Senate, seeks to resolve Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades but risks an angry reaction from independence supporters, who plan street protests later in the day.
In outlining the cabinet’s decision, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the Catalan economy, which accounts for a fifth of the national economy, was already in worrying shape as a result of the regional’s government push for independence.
“We will ask the Senate, with the aim of protecting the general interest of the nation, to authorize the government… to sack the Catalan president and his government,” Rajoy told a news conference.
It is the first time since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 1970s that the central government has invoked the constitutional right to take control of a region and rule it directly from Madrid.
Direct rule will include full control of the region’s police, finances and public media. The powers of the regional parliament will also be curbed.
Rajoy said his intention was to not use those special powers for more than six months and he would call a regional election as soon as the situation was back to “normal.”
“Our objective is to restore the law and a normal cohabitation among citizens, which has deteriorated a lot, continue with the economic recovery, which is under threat today in Catalonia, and celebrate elections in a situation of normality,” Rajoy said.
The measures must now be approved by Spain’s upper house, the Senate, where a vote is scheduled for Oct. 27.