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Socialists back PM over Catalan home rule, win support for constitutional reform

If Article 155 is finally invoked, it will end in new regional elections, Rajoy and Sánchez agree

The Popular Party government of Spain headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is “accompanied” by the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) in its decision to activate Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution – legislation that allows for Madrid to temporarily take control of the internal affairs of Catalonia – if Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont does not renounce his independence declaration.

The leader of Spain's Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez.
The leader of Spain's Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez.

This is the commitment made by PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday. Sánchez has also managed to commit Rajoy to a project aimed at reforming Spain’s Constitution, while both leaders have agreed that if Article 155 is applied in the case of Catalonia, it must result in new regional elections.

Rajoy on Wednesday sent the Catalan government a formal notification asking it to clarify whether independence has indeed been declared; this was a preliminary step toward activating Article 155. The notification from Madrid contains references to two time limits: the Catalan premier must clarify before 10am on Monday October 16 if he did or did not declare independence on October 10, regardless of whether or not he then immediately suspended that declaration.

If he did declare independence, Puigdemont then has until 10am on October 19 to withdraw the declaration and restore constitutional order.

If that does not occur, Rajoy will “immediately activate” Article 155 in the Senate.

If Puigdemont does not provide a clear answer to the government, Rajoy will assume that independence was declared

A statement from the prime minister’s official residence, La Moncloa, said the government considered the declaration made on Tuesday “deliberately confusing.” If Puigdemont does not provide a clear answer to the notification from the government, Rajoy will assume that independence was declared, the statement reads.

“Any response that is neither a simple yes or no will be considered confirmation,” the statement read.

“The attempted imposition of unilateral independence using public powers entrusted to the regional parliament, premier and executive of Catalonia to try and impose a pre-established decision without any democratic control, constitutes an attack on the pact of coexistence established by the Constitution,” said Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría in the document sent to Puigdemont.

Sáenz de Santamaría went on to say that the actions of the Catalan premier and the Catalan executive posed a grave threat to constitutional order, noting that Article 155 of the Constitution provided a means of redress in this case.

If Puigdemont does not reply to the request of the government, Rajoy will have to send the Senate a detailed plan of the powers that it will take over from the Catalan government. This plan has already been discussed with representatives from the PSOE, but as the Popular Party holds the majority in the Senate, it will have no problems pushing through this strategy.

English version by George Mills.

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