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It’s time for the government to act on Catalonia

Spain’s parties must draw up a plan to complete the objective outlined by the king

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images

The insurrectionist plan of independence forces in Catalonia is advancing full steam, following a road map that was drawn up some time ago. But the Spanish government has yet to come up with any strategies to halt that plan.

King Felipe VI on Tuesday defended both his own prestige and that of the Crown, clearly stating that it is “the responsibility of the legitimate powers of the State” to ensure “constitutional order.” In the face of a “serious situation,” the monarch offered to all “the absolute guarantee provided by the rule of law in the defense of their freedom and their rights.

It is now up to government, first and foremost – but also up to the opposition – to forge a plan that offers a way of restoring Spanish rule of law as promised by the king, and which brings calm back to both Catalan society and Spanish society as a whole. The appearance of these “legitimate powers” cited by King Felipe, and represented principally in the form of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government, but also by the main parties elected by voters to the Spanish Congress – with particular emphasis on the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) – is critical in terms of trying to get back on the right track.

We are living through an exceptionally serious moment in time in which the Popular Party, as both the party most voted for and the party of government, but also the Socialist Party and other groups with a presence in the Congress that defend our Constitutional regime, will have to design this plan, close ranks around it, and close the door to any possible division that could further threaten stability.

Rajoy cannot keep acting as he has acted to date now that we find ourselves four days after the Catalan referendum and four days before the date marked for the declaration of independence in the regional Catalan parliament. The Socialist Party cannot remain in constant contradiction, saying on the one hand it supports constitutional order and then engaging, at the same time, in incoherent and awkward attacks on Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.

There is just one priority at this time and all members of Congress should understand this: to reestablish the constitutional order; and only once this has been restored should work begin on reforms to the Constitution – with disagreements, proposals and counter proposals, yes, but within the democratic framework forged by the votes of all Spaniards, including Catalans. The Constitution must be observed, albeit to overhaul it, but it cannot be negotiated, and no one has the power to do so.

Twenty-four hours after King Felipe’s speech, Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont once again defied the Spanish state. The premier, emboldened in both his manner and in what he said, gave a message in which, as if he were already a head of state in the making – and acting as if he were speaking for everyone in Catalonia – rebuked the monarch. “Not like this,” he said, accusing the king of having disappointed Catalans. This was a new example of the current institutional breakdown. Despite using the offer of dialogue as bait, Puigdemont confirmed he would not give even a millimeter when it came to his independence road map. His script is written, the king’s as well. It is time for the government, with the backing of the PSOE and Ciudadanos, to design, exhibit and put its plan into practice.

English version by George Mills.

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