Catalonia latest: Spanish PM sacks Catalan government for declaring independence

New elections to be held on 21 December, Mariano Rajoy says

Jon Sharman
Friday 27 October 2017 20:29
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Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy delivers a statement after an extraordinary cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy delivers a statement after an extraordinary cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has announced he is sacking the Catalan government after it declared independence following a vote in the region’s parliament on Friday.

The assembly has been dissolved and new elections will be held on 21 December, he said.

Central government ministries will take over the administration of the region in a step Mr Rajoy said was needed to “recover normality”.

Catalonia's police chief has also been sacked and its foreign affairs department closed, with delegates in Brussels and Madrid dismissed.

It will be the first time in four decades of democratic rule in Spain that the national government in Madrid will directly run the affairs of one of the country’s 17 semi-autonomous regions.

The announcement follows a day of drama in which the Catalan parliament passed a motion to declare independence and – less than an hour later – Spain’s senate granted Mr Rajoy the power to impose direct rule.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who had led the secession effort, is no longer in office and Spain’s top prosecutor is now deciding whether to charge him with rebellion.

Both he and Mr Rajoy had earlier called for calm, with the Catalan leader urging “pacificism and dignity”.

The Catalan National Assembly urged regional civil servants not to cooperate with their new bosses in Madrid.

His independence effort has found little support outside the country, with Italy, the UK and the US State Department saying they backed a united Spain.

Donald Tusk, head of the European Council, said that nothing would change for the EU and that it would only deal with the Madrid government, while France's Emmanuel Macron made similar comments.

Mr Rajoy called for “clean, free and legal” elections after a meeting with his cabinet on Friday afternoon.

In a square outside the government palace in Barcelona, an announcer told the crowd about the moves by Mr Rajoy.

The news was greeted with loud jeers and whistles.

But the thousands who came to celebrate Catalonia’s independence declaration did not let the Spanish response disrupt the festive mood.

A band took to the stage immediately after the announcement and the crowd once more began singing and dancing to the music.

The crowd in Sant Jaume Square shouted “we are not moving”.

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