Catalonia’s self-rule threatened once again as Spain prepares for snap-election


Ahead of the fourth Spanish election in four years, acting Spanish president Pedro Sánchez threatened to once again activate Article 155 of the constitution and suspend Catalan autonomy

  • Spain to return to the polls for a further General Election on 10 November after talks to prop up the administration of Pedro Sánchez collapse
  • Sánchez’s stated willingness to re-trigger Article 155 of the constitution to reimpose direct rule upon Catalonia insufficient to convince the unionist opposition party Ciutadans, who demand that a pardon for imprisoned Catalan political leaders be ruled out
  • The five Catalan prisoners who became senators and MPs in the last election are not expected to be allowed to stand in the November poll, and will be sentenced in early October

THE acting president of Spain Pedro Sánchez has threatened to suspend Catalonia’s self-rule following the breakdown of talks that would allow him to remain in power and the announcement of a Spanish snap-election on 10 November.

Sánchez announced the election this week, confirming that no parliamentary majority existed within the Spanish Congress that would allow for the formation of a new government, an outcome which he blamed on Spanish opposition parties.

“For the Spanish Government to not depend on [Basque and Catalan] pro-independence parties,” Sánchez argued, “their abstention was needed.”

Addressing the Spanish Congress on 18 September, Sánchez emphasised that he was prepared to reactivate Article 155, the constitutional mechanism which permits the Spanish Government to enact direct rule over regional governments which “act in a way that seriously attacks the general interest of Spain”, and was controversially employed for eight months after the Catalan Government made its declaration of independence in October 2017.

READ MORE: ‘Political debate cannot be decided by repression’: French parliamentarians unite in support of Catalan political prisoners

Sánchez told Congress: “If the Catalan Government makes any attempt to violate against the Statute [the system of Catalonia’s self-rule] and the Constitution, Socialists are ready to enforce any article of the Constitution.”

The acting president’s statement followed a failed proposal from the unionist Ciutadans party, which would have allowed the Socialist executive of Sánchez to form a government if he guaranteed that pro-independence Catalan leaders currently awaiting sentencing for their role in the 2017 Catalan referendum were not pardoned, and committed to triggering Article 155 if necessary.

Addressing Ciutadans directly on 17 September, Sánchez said that he “would not hesitate” to reintroduce direct rule of Catalonia from Madrid if the circumstances required it, but this was insufficient to sway Ciutadans or to prevent a snap-election, which will now be made official on 23 September.

Among Catalonia’s imprisoned political and civic leaders, the five who became senators and MPs during Spain’s 28 April election have since been suspended, and are not expected to be allowed to run in the November poll. The Catalan News Agency today reported that Catalonia’s two main pro-independence parties, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) and Esquerra (ERC), are now in the process of finding replacement candidates. 

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Catalan pro-independence parties have reacted derisively to the announcement of the snap-election. JxCat spokesperson Laura Borràs commented: “His way of talking about the dialogue is to do everything possible to avoid dialogue… he has said the same as he said about Rajoy.

“He was not able to read the results, weave the consensus and want to manage electoral results as if they were an absolute majority they do not have, and want to correct the votes of the Spaniards.”

ERC’s Gabriel Rufián also commented on social media: “Pedro Sánchez said that he tried it by all means. If he says the truth is an incompetent and if he lies he is an irresponsible.”

The standoff between the Spanish and Catalan governments that has persisted since the attempted suppression of the 2017 Catalan independence referendum is unlikely to abate before the snap election, with pro-independence Catalan feeling recently reinforced by a 600,000-strong demonstration in Barcelona for Diada Nacional de Catalunya (Catalonia’s National Day).

READ MORE: ‘Power rests with the Catalan people’: Aamer Anwar condemns ‘show-trial’ as Catalan leaders await verdict

Marking the occasion, Catalan President Quim Torra said that the upcoming sentencing of Catalonia’s imprisoned politicians “will mark a key moment in our country’s history, as well as that of Spain, showing the world the true quality of its democracy.

“We will see to what extent it respects the rights and freedoms that any modern state should guarantee.”

Regarding the future of the Catalan independence movement, Torra continued: “It is the moment to recover our self-confidence, stop playing defensively and once again regain the initiative to mark out a clear route that ends in independence.

‘Objective independence’ is the rallying cry for this Diada.”

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