Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has initiated formalities for invoking Article 155 of the Constitution, which allows Madrid to take over the powers of a regional government: he has requested Carles Puigdemont to clarify or confirm whether or not he declared independence. It is the first step laid out by law to trigger Article 155, as he himself confirmed in an emergency press conference in Madrid’s Moncloa complex. The formal request, which the Catalan government received this afternoon and to which ARA has had access, gives Puigdemont until Monday to respond as to whether he, or any authority of the Generalitat, has declared independence, and, if so, urges him to revoke it before Thursday the 19th.
Rajoy explained this following an impromptu cabinet meeting held on Wednesday in response to Tuesday's suspended declaration of independence by the President of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont. This requirement includes a time limit, which the Moncloa did not clarify at the time.
The Spanish president gave more details of the measure this afternoon, in an appearance before Congress. "A commitment to clarity is more important now in the face of the confusion generated by Tuesday's events", said Rajoy, who explained that he had authorized "a formal request to the Generalitat that it confirm whether or not it had formally declared the independence of Catalonia". "This is a required step prior to any of the measures that the government might apply under Article 155 of our Constitution", he continued, before justifying that "the Spanish government wants to offer certainties to all Spaniards".
"If Mr. Puigdemont expresses his willingness to respect existing laws, it will put an end to this period of instability", he continued, to explain that if the President of the Generalitat abandons his plans, Article 155 will not be invoked.
What has not been confirmed by either Rajoy or sources within the Moncloa is the possible extent of the measure, because Article 155 could mean establishing direct rule or the takeover of some select powers. Nor did he say, in a very brief statement, whether he had the support of the PSOE, which he was seeking yesterday up to the last minute. PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez held a press conference today to announce his position after this article went to press.