Spain’s PM says may use con­sti­tu­tion to block Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

MADRID/BARCELONA (Reuters) - Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy said on Satur­day he would not rule out us­ing the con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers to re­move Cat­alo­nia’s au­ton­o­mous sta­tus if it claimed in­de­pen­dence as tens of thou­sands took to the streets to call for talks.

The wealthy north­east­ern re­gion of Cat­alo­nia, with its own lan­guage and cul­ture, held a ref­er­en­dum on Oct. 1 on in­de­pen­dence, in de­fi­ance of the Span­ish con­sti­tu­tional court which had ruled the vote il­le­gal.

Un­til now, Ra­joy has re­mained vague on whether he would use ar­ti­cle 155, the so-called nu­clear op­tion, of the con­sti­tu­tion which en­ables him to sack the re­gional gov­ern­ment and call a fresh lo­cal elec­tion.

In an in­ter­view with Span­ish news­pa­per El Pais on Satur­day Ra­joy was asked if he was ready to trig­ger the ar­ti­cle 155 of the con­sti­tu­tion, and said: “I don’t rule out ab­so­lutely any­thing that is within the law ... Ide­ally, it shouldn’t be nec­es­sary to im­ple­ment ex­treme so­lu­tions but for that not to hap­pen things would have to be changed.”

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered across Spain ear­lier on Satur­day as Cat­alo­nia pre­pared to de­clare in­de­pen­dence from the rest of the coun­try, many dressed in white and call­ing for talks to defuse Spain’s worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis for decades.

The Cata­lan au­thor­i­ties say around 90 per­cent of those who voted sup­ported a split from Spain. Madrid says se­ces­sion is il­le­gal un­der the Spain’s 1978 con­sti­tu­tion. Res­i­dents of Cat­alo­nia who op­pose se­ces­sion largely boy­cotted the vote.

The cri­sis is a po­lit­i­cal test for Ra­joy, who has been un­com­pro­mis­ing. Some 900 peo­ple were in­jured dur­ing the vote when po­lice tried to dis­rupt vot­ing, fir­ing rub­ber bul­lets and charg­ing crowds with trun­cheons.

The po­lit­i­cal stand-off has di­vided the coun­try, pushed banks and com­pa­nies to move their head­quar­ters out­side Cat­alo­nia and shaken mar­ket con­fi­dence in the Span­ish econ­omy, prompt­ing calls from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion for Cata­lan and Span­ish lead­ers to find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.

“I hope that the Cat­alo­nia that makes pacts, is mod­er­ate and for many years con­trib­uted to Spain’s eco­nomic growth and im­prove­ment in wel­fare and wealth re­turns. It can’t be in the hands of ex­trem­ists, the rad­i­cals and the (far-left se­ces­sion­ist party) CUP,” he said.

How­ever, Ra­joy ruled out us­ing me­di­a­tors to re­solve the cri­sis and also said the is­sue would not force a snap na­tional elec­tion.

In peace­ful protests called across 50 Span­ish cities on Satur­day morn­ing, thou­sands gath­ered dressed in white and car­ry­ing ban­ners call­ing for peace and di­a­logue be­tween lead­ers.

Mar­i­ano Ra­joy

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