What is Article 155? Spain's nuclear option – what does it mean for Catalonia?

Posted on Oct 21 2017 - 4:44pm by admin

Spain’s government triggered Article 155 of its constitution earlier on Saturday, which allows it to suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy.

The shocking announcement followed Madrid’s decision to use the ‘nuclear’ option after Catalonia threatened to declare immediate independence from Spain unless it hold talks with separatist leaders.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy now said that he will curb the powers of Catalonia’s parliament as well as sack its government and call for an election within six months.

Mr Rajoy argued that the move will restore the rule of law and preserve cicivl right by preventing the autonomous region to breakaway from Spain.

The Prime Minister said at a press conference: “We asked for simple explanation of whether independence had been declared or not. 

“We decided to act in a reasonable way and sensible way using common sense in order to encourage the Catalan government to correct their standpoint. They did not respond because they didn’t want to before the the deadline.”

“I am under the impression having seen the events unfold over the last few days and weeks that you could possiblly be under the impression that this was all planned that there was an intention to have 155 triggered.

“I can’t confirm and don’t want to criticise but I do believe this because I do not think things could have been done any worse.”

It is now up for Spain’s upper house, The Senate, to approve the drastic measures in a vote on October 27.

Earlier this month, firebrand Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said the regional parliament could vote on a formal declaration of independence from Spain if the central government refuses to talk.

Catalonia has been plunged into crisis and civil unrest after a majority of voters backed breaking away from Spain in an outlawed independence referendum this month. 

What is Article 155?

Article 155, of the Spanish constitution, is the ‘nuclear option’ which will allow Spain to seize back some powers from Catalonia. 

The powerful tool has never been used before. The deeply controversial use of Article 155 could lead to a constitutional crisis and mass protests in Catalonia. 

Spain’s central government has said it would “continue with the procedures provided for in Article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in the self-government of Catalonia”.

Prime Minister Rajoy confirmed that all powers of the Catalan administration will be transferred to the central government.

In theory, if the Article is voted through by The Senate on October 27, Spain’s Ministers will be able to take over responsibilities on October 28.

Madrid announced today’s emergency cabinet meeting “to defend the general interest Spaniards, among them the citizens of Catalonia, and take the measures to reestablish the constitutional order in Catalonia”.  

Here is the actual wording of Article 155 in the Spanish constitution:

“If a self-governing community does not fulfill the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain, the government, after having lodged a complaint with the president of the self-governing community and failed to receive satisfaction therefore, may, following approval granted by the overall majority of the senate, take all measures necessary to compel the community to meet said obligations, or to protect the above mentioned general interest.”

It adds: “With a view to implementing the measures provided for in the foregoing paragraph, the government may issue instructions to all the authorities of the self-governing communities.”

Initially it was not clear what specific measures Spainish Prime Minister Rajoy could take under Article 155, according to Antonio Barroso, deputy director of research at risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence.

Mr Barroso said: “The list of measures that Rajoy might take under Article 155 remains unclear, but it is likely that he would use it to trigger early elections in the region at some point before the end of the year.” 

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