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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

Direct rule by Spain or civil disobedience: What’s next for Catalonia?

The Madrid government sacked Catalonia’s president and dismissed its parliament, hours after the region declared itself an independent nation in Spain.

world Updated: Oct 28, 2017 13:58 IST

Reuters, Barcelona/Madrid
Pro-independence supporters carry an 'Estelada' or independence flag in downtown Barcelona.
Pro-independence supporters carry an 'Estelada' or independence flag in downtown Barcelona.(AP Photo)

Spain on Friday sacked Catalonia’s regional government, dissolved the Catalan parliament and called a snap election in the region for December 21, in a bid to draw a line under the country’s worst political crisis in 40 years.

As well as removing Carles Puigdemont as head of the autonomous region, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also fired Catalonia’s police chief and said central government ministries would take over the administration.

“Spain is living through a sad day,” Rajoy said. “We believe it is urgent to listen to Catalan citizens, to all of them, so that they can decide their future and nobody can act outside the law on their behalf.”

Below are several scenarios of what could happen in the next few days.

Direct rule

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sacked Catalonia’s government including regional president Carles Puigdemont and his deputy Oriol Junqueras and assumed direct control over the region.

Central government ministries will assume directly the powers of the Catalan administration until a regional election takes place on December 21.


It is not clear whether a snap regional election will resolve the crisis.

An opinion poll published by the El Periodico newspaper on Sunday showed a snap election would probably have results similar to the last ballot in 2015, when a coalition of pro-independence parties formed a minority government.

Other opinion polls have shown Catalonia is almost evenly split between pro- and anti-independence supporters.

Civil disobedience

Catalonia’s main secessionist groups have called for widespread civil disobedience. They also instructed civil servants not to obey orders from Madrid and respond with peaceful resistance. It is unclear whether such calls will be followed or not.

People holding Esteladas gather outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona.
People holding Esteladas gather outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona. ( AFP Photo )

Use of force

Spain’s government said it was not planning to make any arrests, but it is unclear how it will proceed if the current regional administration staff refuse to leave their offices.

A growing number of analysts fear this could lead to a physical confrontation if national police, who used heavy-handed tactics to thwart an October 1 vote on independence, seek to intervene.

Change of police

One of the main problems over the implementation of direct rule will relate to Catalonia’s own police forces, the Mossos d’Esquadra.

Rajoy said the Mossos chief would be fired.

But a group of Mossos favouring independence has already said they would not follow instructions from the central government and would not use force to remove ministers and lawmakers from power.

Several officers told Reuters they believed the 17,000-strong force was split between those who want independence and those who oppose it.

The Mossos, whose chief is under investigation on suspicion of sedition, will have to act on direct orders from their new bosses. If deemed necessary, Mossos officers may be replaced by national police.



The Economy Ministry has already increased its control over regional finances, to block the use of state funds to organise the secession bid, and started paying directly for essential services.

Under the new proposal, Madrid will take full financial control.

Many companies have however said on condition of anonymity that they feared a new Catalan treasury could start levying taxes, and that they would seek to move their tax base outside Catalonia.

It is also possible that some pro-independence Catalans will stop paying their taxes to the Spanish treasury.

Media control

The Spanish government had initially said it would control widely watched Catalan public television TV3, but it eventually dropped that plan.

The media is likely to play an important role in the run-up to the new election in Catalonia.

First Published: Oct 28, 2017 09:06 IST

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