The saga of Catalonia’s quest for independence from Spain took a dramatic turn on Friday when the Spanish government seized control of the autonomous region’s government, fired all regional politicians, and ordered new regional elections to be held in December.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced in an address on Friday evening that he had sacked not only Catalonia’s regional president, Carlos Puigdemont, but had also removed the entire Catalonian government, the head of the regional police department, and the Catalonian government’s international diplomatic outposts, The Guardian reported.
“I have decided to call free, clean and legal elections as soon as possible to restore democracy,” he said, scheduling the regional elections for December 21 and noting that the changes were meant to “restore the self-government that has been eliminated by the decisions of the Catalan government.”
“We never, ever wanted to get to this situation,” he added. “Nor do we think that it would be good to prolong this exceptional [state of affairs]. But as we have always said, this is not about suspending autonomy but about restoring it.”
Furthermore, Spain’s top prosecutor has been directed to seek criminal charges of rebellion against those 70 members of Catalonia’s 135-seat regional parliament who voted for independence. Then MPs voted against the measure, while dozens more boycotted the secret ballot by marching out and leaving both Spanish and Catalonian flags in their empty seats.
The Catalonian independence movement faced an uphill struggle even if it were not prematurely halted by Rajoy. In separate statements, officials from the European Union, the United States, Britain, France and Germany all spoke in support for a unified Spain.
“Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional rights to keep Spain strong and united,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “I hope the Spanish government favors force of argument, not argument of force.”