CRISIS IN CATALONIA

Catalan leader’s ally vows to fight “nuclear” option of early election

Far-left CUP party rejects a move that could potentially halt the suspension of home rule

CUP deputy Carles Riera (R) said that early elections are a nuclear weapon against independence.
CUP deputy Carles Riera (R) said that early elections are a nuclear weapon against independence.EFE

The Catalan government is considering the option of calling early elections in the region, according to its far-left ally in the regional assembly, the CUP party.

But the small separatist group, whose support is crucial to the governing coalition Junts pel Si (Together for Yes), will oppose an election “radically, because this is the nuclear weapon designed to end the Catalan independence process,” said CUP deputy Carles Riera on Tuesday.

The government’s deliberations are secret. I will not answer in order to avoid speculation

Jordi Turull, Catalan government spokesman

If Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont were to call elections, it could potentially halt the activation of emergency measures due to be rolled out on Saturday and allowing Madrid to take over Catalonia’s affairs.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has invoked Article 155 of the Constitution, which allows the central government to temporarily impose direct rule in a renegade region.

The Spanish Senate is scheduled to meet this coming Friday to approve measures that include relieving the entire Catalan governing team of its duties and transferring these to Spanish ministries. In a public appearance last Saturday, Rajoy added that fresh elections will be called within the next six months.

The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which helped the Popular Party (PP) goverment draft the list of emergency measures along with the reform party Ciudadanos, said on Tuesday that if Catalonia calls new elections within the constitutional framework and rejects a unilateral declaration of independence, “there would be no reason to implement 155,” according to the PSOE’s congressional spokeswoman, Margarita Robles.

Justice Minister Rafael Catalá cautioned on Tuesday morning that even if Puigdemont were to announce new elections this week, this in itself would not be enough to stop the application of the emergency measures. That can only happen if Puigdemont drops his plans for independence entirely and embraces the Constitution once again.

In the meantime, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría has told the Onda Cero radio station that “the Senate has the ability to adapt to whatever Puigdemont and the Catalan parliament do.”

The Catalan parliament is scheduled to meet on Thursday and Friday for a debate on the implications of Article 155 for the region, and what the response should be. The CUP has suggested that a full declaration of independence could be issued and put to the vote, following the symbolic declaration of October 10.

But the CUP, whose role as a necessary ally has made it a major player in Catalan politics despite having the fewest deputies in the chamber (10), will fight the push for early elections.

“It would be an act of submission, of serfdom. They (Spain) are treating us like a colony,” said Riera. “Calling regional elections would be the most demolishing tool to halt the independence process.”

The Catalan government spokesman, Jordi Turull, would not confirm whether elections are on the table.

“The government’s deliberations are secret. I will not answer that in order to avoid speculation,” he said at a news conference.

The Senate has offered Puigdemont the possibility of a one-on-one debate, “very possibly” with PM Mariano Rajoy, when the committee in charge of the emergency measures meets on Thursday, or else at the plenary session on Friday. But those dates coincide with the debate scheduled inside the Catalan parliament.

English version by Susana Urra.

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