CATALAN President Carles Puigdemont said yesterday he would convene his parliament on Thursday to decide how to respond to Madrid’s plan to take direct control of the autonomous region.
The plan was announced at the weekend by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who seeks to trigger article 155 of the constitution, allowing the central government to take over the running of Catalonia.
The regional government claimed a mandate to secede from Spain following an October 1 referendum — ruled illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court — and Mr Puigdemont’s weekend speech was seen as a veiled threat to declare independence.
The conservative federal government insists that no dialogue is possible with independence on the table and is manoeuvring to remove all Catalan top officials and call an early regional election.
Spain’s parliamentary parties designated 27 senators as a commission to study the government request to apply article 155. Given that the group includes 15 members of Mr Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party, it will be approved.
The commission is expected to invite Mr Puigdemont to defend his case, most likely by Thursday, in the run-up to a Senate vote on Friday on activating the measures.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that Mr Rajoy might name someone to take control of supervising and co-ordinating ministries involved in applying the takeover measures.
She said that, once the Senate gives the green light, the Catalan government will be out office immediately and Mr Puigdemont “will no longer be paid, he will not have a presidential signature” and will not be able to make decisions.
Ms Saenz de Santamaria warned that the government could take other measures against Catalan government officials should they decide to ignore the measures.
Lluis Corominas, spokesman for Catalonia’s governing Together for Yes coalition, accused Madrid of acting “like a dictatorship,” calling the use of article 155 “an act of institutional violence without precedent.
“In this parliament, we won’t be able to debate or vote any initiative without Madrid’s permission. That is not democracy,” he said.
Pro-independence students called for a strike in Catalan universities on Thursday to urge the authorities to push ahead with a declaration of independence and defend the region’s institutions.