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Spain Moves To Suspend Independent Catalonian Government

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks during a press conference at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, October 21, 2017. REUTERS/Juan MedinaSpain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks during a press conference at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, October 21, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Spanish leaders met Saturday to discuss invoking constitutional powers that would allow the central government to seize control of Catalonia, a breakaway region that voted for independence earlier this month.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he is willing to apply Article 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution, an unprecedented move that would revoke Catalonia’s autonomy and remove its elected officials.

In a statement released Saturday, the government announced plans to ask the Spanish senate to implement Article 155 next Friday, due to Catalonia’s “flagrant, obstinate and deliberate noncompliance” with its constitutional obligations. The government said that Catalonia carried out its secession campaign with “rebel, systematic and conscious disobedience.”

“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 reporters at a news conference, according to Reuters.

Catalan separatists staged an Oct. 1 referendum, deemed illegal by Spain, in which more than 2 million people voted for independence. Led by regional president Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan government initially declared independence but later said it was willing to begin talks with the central government.

The secession campaign has triggered Spain’s worst political crisis since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975. Rajoy’s government and opposition parties have united against the Catalan independence movement, while pro-separatist groups have led millions of Catalonians into the streets to protest Madrid’s dismissal of the referendum.

After a meeting with his cabinet Saturday, Rajoy said he wants the senate to give him authority to dissolve the Catalonia’s regional government and institute new elections as early as January, reports the Associated Press. In the meantime, central government ministers would “restore order” and assume the powers of Catalan officials, Rajoy said.

Catalonia already enjoys considerable autonomy, with control of its own health care, education and regional police ministries. Madrid has said it might seek to take over the Catalonian police force, Mossos D’Esquadra, as well as regional finance and interior ministries.

“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 Saturday.

A senate vote on the emergency measures is scheduled for Oct. 27.

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