MADRID (Reuters) – Catalonia’s leader cannot solve its political crisis with Madrid just by calling regional elections, Spain’s justice minister said yesterday, dampening hopes of a quick fix for the dispute.
The Spanish government says it will impose direct rule on Catalonia from Friday to counter an illegal independence push, invoking never-before-used powers to fire the government of the region that is critical to the country’s economy.
The Catalan parliament will meet tomorrow to agree on a response to Madrid, something many analysts said could pave the way for a formal declaration of independence.
Pro-independence party CUP politician Carles Riera said yesterday the Catalan government is considering calling a snap election, but added the far-left party would oppose such a move.
“The regional elections are a weapon to cancel the October 1 [referendum] and the will of the majority of Catalonia,” Mr Riera told a news conference.
Secessionists in Catalonia say that an independence referendum – which drew only a 43 percent turnout and was mostly shunned by Catalans who wish to remain in Spain – has accorded them a mandate to claim statehood.
Catalonia said on Monday it was confident all officials including police would defy attempts by Madrid to enforce direct rule.
Spanish political leaders, influential business lobbies and most Catalonia newspapers have urged Mr Puigdemont to call a regional election before he is stripped out of his authority. They say direct rule from Madrid would be a humiliation for Catalonia and pose a serious risk of social and economic unrest.
Mr Puigdemont has remained silent on the matter of elections. Some of his senior advisers have said holding a vote is a possibility while others have ruled it out. His pro-secession allies are also divided.
The Spanish government said a snap election would be a first step but Mr Puigdemont would also have to withdraw an ambiguous declaration of independence he made earlier this month.
“When the government proposes an option so extreme as Article 155 (powers to cancel Catalonia’s autonomous status), it’s because we believe that there has been a serious failure by Mr Puigdemont to meet his obligations,” Justice Minister Rafael Catala said during a radio interview. “Everything is not fixed just by calling an election.”
Mr Catala said if Mr Puigdemont appeared before the Senate, it would be a positive step in finding
a solution to the conflict.