As the world looked to the Spanish region of Catalonia for a possible declaration of independence, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont did not make such a statement on Saturday, though his claim—that the Spanish government's recent efforts to thwart Catalonia's secession are the worst attacks since Spanish dictator Francisco Franco—certainly left an impression.
Puigdemont, who spoke on television late Saturday, threatened to call a vote in the regional parliament for an explicit declaration of independence from Spain.
Earlier Saturday, the speaker of the Catalan parliament said that Spain's central authorities have made an effective "coup d'etat" in what she called an "authoritarian" attempt to take control of the northeastern region, whose threat to secede has has caused the Spanish government to declare it will be overtaking the Catalan government and stripping it of its authority.
Legislator Carme Forcadell said in Barcelona that Spanish Prime Minister "Mariano Rajoy has announced a de facto coup d'etat with the goal of ousting a democratically elected government."
Forcadell said the move is "an authoritarian blow within a member of the European Union."
Rajoy's conservative government is likely to obtain the national Senate's backing next week for extraordinary powers that will allow him to dissolve the Catalan parliament and call an early election. The measures include the sacking of Catalonia's separatist leaders.
Rajoy said the regional parliament will have its powers limited, but will remain in place until new lawmakers are elected in less than six months.
Earlier Saturday, the Spanish government decisively decided to use a previously untapped constitutional power so it can take control of Catalonia and derail the independence movement led by separatist politicians in the prosperous industrial region.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said after meeting with his Cabinet on Saturday that the central government needs to take the unprecedented step of assuming control of Catalonia to "restore order" in the face of a secession effort backed by the regional government.
He is proposing that the powers of Catalan officials be taken over by central government ministers and has asked the Senate to allow central ministers to take over functions from all the regional Cabinet members and give him the power to call regional elections—something that only Catalonia's top leader can do now.
Spain, which facing its most grave institutional crisis in decades with Catalonia's independence movement. Rajoy said a new regional election in Catalonia should be held in the next six months.
"There is no country in the world ready to allow this kind of situation within its borders," Rajoy said Saturday. "It is my wish to call elections as soon as normality is restored."
Rajoy's party enjoys a majority in the Senate and he has the backing of the main opposition parties in the move to quash independence for Catalonia and maintain Spain's territorial integrity.
Article 155 gives central authorities to intervene when one of Spain's 17 autonomous regions fails to comply with the law. It's never been applied since the 1978 Constitution was adopted, but Rajoy's conservative government says establishing direct control over Catalonia was a move of last resort.
The move is expected to spark angry opposition from both independence supporters and moderate Catalans, who will see it as an attack on their autonomy.
Puigdemont, who is to deliver a televised address late Saturday, has threatened to call a vote in the regional parliament for an explicit declaration of independence from Spain.
Catalan grassroots organizations who have been key drivers in the secession bid called the measures "authoritarian" and urged the immediate proclamation of a new Catalan republic.