Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday announced the immediate sacking of Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his government and called new elections in the region on December 21.
This followed the decision taken by the Catalan parliament earlier in the day to unilaterally declare independence of the region in the northeast of Spain, Xinhua news agency reported.
Rajoy announced the measures after a special cabinet meeting called at his residence in the Palacio de la Moncloa to decide how to apply Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution.
Reading a statement in an appearance which did not allow questions from the press, Rajoy said: “Spanish people were living a sad day when the lack of reason had gone over the head of the law,” and that his government had begun “to adopt the measures against an inadmissible kidnapping of the rights of the majority of Catalan.”
He asked for “prudence and serenity and also confidence,” in the state, saying the actions were, “not a question of suspending (Catalan) self-government, but a question of returning it to normality as soon as possible.”
“Catalonia needs to reconcile itself with the truth, the law and itself and that is why I have decided to call elections. We have to avoid more damage and return normality to the life of the citizens,” said Rajoy.
Apart from sacking Puigdemont and his government, Rajoy also announced the dismissal of the chief of the Mossos’d ‘Esquadra (Catalan police), the closure of Catalan embassies abroad, as well as Catalan government delegations in Madrid and Brussels.
The application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which suspends the autonomy of the Catalan region and hands control of key Catalan institutions to Madrid, was approved by the Spanish Senate on Friday afternoon.
Rajoy had earlier spoken from the corridors of the Senate to describe the independence declaration as a “crime.”
“What has happened in the Catalan parliament shows how necessary it was to approve this article,” said Rajoy.
The measures have the support of Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who commented: “Socialists have always supported the common good in the face of independent movements. There is no left wing flag in the secessionist cause.”
In other developments, the Spanish Constitutional Court has accepted an appeal presented by the Catalan branch of the Socialist Party (PSC) against the validity Friday’s session in the Catalan Parliament.
Central government sources also confirm that the Spanish government will appeal to the Constitutional Court against the Catalan declaration of independence.
The Spanish State Prosecutor will on Monday look to present accusations of “rebellion” against Puigdemont and other members of his government, charges which could mean a term of between 15 and 30 years in jail.