Madrid, MINA – Spain’s Prime Minister has warned that he will not rule out imposing direct rule on Catalonia if its government continues to threaten to declare independence, independent.co.uk reported.
Mariano Rajoy has said he will not “rule out anything” when it comes to solving the constitutional crisis which has gripped the country since the referendum result last week. He said Madrid may have to resort to “drastic solutions” to restore order.
The referendum on independence called by the Catalan government, deemed illegal by Madrid, saw an overwhelmingly majority vote to split from Spain.
But voting was marred by violence as Spanish police tried to prevent to people from voting, blocking the entrance to polling stations and removing ballot boxes.
National Civil Guard officers, brought in by Madrid which did not trust the local force Mossos d’ Esquadra to stop the vote, fired rubber bullets into crowds of protesters.
At least 860 people were injured in the clashes which were condemned by a Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. He said the violence meant “the Spanish state wrote another shameful page in its history with Catalonia”.
Last week, he said he planned to formally declared independence from Spain “at the end of this week or the beginning of next”, while also calling for international help in solving the crisis through mediation.
But Mr Rajoy defended the actions of the Civil Guard in a television address where he said the police response was appropriate because a referendum “did not take place in Catalonia” as it had already been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court in Madrid.
The court found the vote violated a clause in the constitution which refers to “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards”.
He was defended by the Spanish King, Felipe, who accused the Catalan government of an “inadmissible lack of loyalty” and said the situation was “very serious” but believed the country “will overcome difficult times”.
Speaking to Spanish newspaper El Pais, Mr Rajoy said Spain would “absolutely not” split up.
He said: “Spain is not going to divide and national unity will be maintained. To do so we will use all of the instruments that the legislation gives us. It falls to the government to take the decision and to do so at the right time. We have listened to a lot of people.
“We believe that we know what the Spanish people are thinking. And they should know that the government also knows what it has to do.”
He said with “complete clarity” that Madrid is “going to stop independence from taking place”.
“I want to say one thing with complete clarity: while the threat of a declaration of independence does not disappear from the political panorama it is going to be very difficult for the government not to make decisions”, he warned.
When asked whether this meant he would trigger Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which means the central government can take direct control of an autonomous region which declares independence, he said he would not “rule anything out”.
The measure, which is described as the “nuclear option” by Spanish analysts, has never been invoked by the government since the restoration of democracy after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. (T/RS5/RS1)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)