Catalonia braces for Madrid takeover amidst ongoing tensions

World Today

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont leaves at the end of a parliamentary session at the Catalan parliament in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. The leader of Spain’s secession-minded Catalonia region says he has decided against calling a parliamentary election that might have defused tension with the Spanish government. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Spain is on edge as the clock ticks on the region of Catalonia’s push for independence.

The Catalan president declined to travel from Barcelona to Madrid to debate in the Senate about the Spanish government’s threat to fire him and temporarily take over Catalonia’s government, until new elections.

The potentially historic decisions could come Friday in Madrid and in Barcelona.

CGTN’s Al Goodman reports.

As tensions rise over Catalonia’s bid to break away from Spain, the response from many Spaniards has been flags. Show the flag, and proudly, the thinking goes. It’s not normal to see this public display of patriotism in the capital, Madrid, and in other Spanish cities. But these are not normal times.

Manuel Muniz, dean at the IE University in Madrid, is worried about the political impasse between Madrid and Barcelona.

“It basically says that we live in a black and white world regarding this issue,” he said. “So, we’re now stuck in these positions that are very hard to move out of and that determine the dynamic of the process. Politics is the art of grey.”

Suddenly, the Spanish Senate is in the political spotlight, which is also not normal here.  It’s the lower house, the Spanish parliament, where the main laws are passed by the most powerful politicians like the Prime Minister. By contrast, the Senate usually stays in the political background. But the Senate has the power at this crucial time, thanks to an obscure part of Spain’s constitution.

It’s called Article 155, found almost at the end of the Constitution. It says if a region like Catalonia doesn’t follow the law of the land, like trying to break away, the Senate can authorize the Spanish government to take control. 

Catalan’s president, Carles Puigdemont, declined an invitation to the Senate Thursday to argue why Madrid shouldn’t intervene in Catalonia. He said the Senate had already made up its mind. But Senator Jose Ramon Bauza, from the Prime Minister’s conservative party, is not surprised, despite Puigdemont’s repeated calls for dialogue.

“I think all of us are disappointed because if you always talking about dialogue and you don’t want to talk in the main important institution that is the Senate, it’s quite difficult to believe,” Bauza said.