Spanish Government to Force Catalan Regional Election in January

(Photo by Andreu Dalmau/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock) Secretary-General of Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), Pedro Sanchez (C) arrives for after an extraordinary meeting of PSC's executive board, in Barcelona, northeastern Spain, on 09 October 2017.

Spain’s government has agreed with the socialist opposition to hold regional elections in Catalonia in January, the opposition socialists claim. The elections are part of a package of measures being put in place following Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, as the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont threatens to declare independence, Madrid claims.

The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will announce measures to impose direct rule after an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday. Those measures could include taking over the regional police force, finances and day-to-day governing for a yet unknown period of time. It is hard to know what exact measures will be taken, as the Article 155 procedure has never been used in the country’s history. It does not give the government the power to fully suspend autonomy, and it will not be able to deviate from the list of measures. Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party has not confirmed the agreement to press for a regional vote, announced by the socialist party.

Spanish Socialists: Article 155 means regional elections must be held

Speaking to Spanish broadcaster RTVE on Friday, Socialist Party member Carmen Calvo, a former culture minister, said Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez “was absolutely clear that the application of article 155 means Catalonia must hold elections.” Asked if there was a pact between the Socialists and the government, Calvo said “Yes, yes, yes.”

Calvo defended her party’s support for invoking special powers, seen by many as Madrid’s “nuclear option.” She said the move has nothing to do with the suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy or as a punitive reaction, but with the restoration of statutory laws and the tranquility and security to go to the polls.

She appealed to Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to endorse the elections. Puigdemont has refused calls from the Spanish government to abandon his independence campaign. Catalonia’s government will be dissolved ahead of the vote, which is part of a package of extraordinary measures being imposed on the region. Catalan foreign relations head Raul Romeva has earlier dismissed elections as a solution to the crisis.

EU members will not recognize Catalonia

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Friday, Rajoy said the measures to impose direct rule would have the backing of the PSOE and the centrist party Ciudadanos. On Thursday, European Union leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron offered their support for Rajoy at an EU leaders summit in Brussels. The EU says it will not act as a mediator and the crisis is for Madrid and Barcelona to resolve.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, together with the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, are in Spain to receive, on behalf of the Union, the Premio Princesa de Asturias de la Concordia award. This prize will be presented to them by the Spanish King Felipe VI.

The economic effect

The prolonged standoff has caused hundreds of companies to move their headquarters outside Catalonia and prompted the Spanish government to cut its economic growth forecast. The region accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy. Later on Friday, Moody’s was scheduled to review Spain’s sovereign rating, days after warning that political tensions between Madrid and the rebel leadership in Catalonia were credit-negative for the sovereign, according to Reuters.

In a test of investor appetite for Spanish stocks, housebuilder Aedas dropped over 6 percent in its debut on the Madrid stock exchange on Friday, although it later regained losses to trade close to its listing price. There is a growing fear that crisis could be deepening in the coming weeks and months, so euro has been losing its value in the last few days.

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