Madrid government agrees to hold Catalan election in January

Published 20.10.2017 20:24

Spain's government and the main opposition party agreed Friday to hold a new election in Catalonia in January as part of special measures to try to resolve the country's deepest political crisis in decades.

The move is likely to further inflame tensions between Spain and Catalan pro-independence activists. Catalonia's government says it has the mandate to secede from Spain after an illegal referendum was held on Oct. 1, and it doesn't want a new regional election.

The central government considers starting the activation of Article 155 of Spain's 1978 Constitution, which allows for central authorities to take over all or some of the powers of any of the country's 17 autonomous regions.

The measure, which has never been used since democracy was restored after Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship, needs to be approved by the Senate. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative Popular Party has an absolute majority in the Senate, so it should pass easily as early as Oct. 27.

But the PP has been holding talks with the main opposition Socialist party on the best way to apply Article 155 in the Catalan crisis so there is a wider consensus.

On Friday, Socialist party official Carmen Calvo said that an agreement had been reached with Spain's government on holding a new election in January in Catalonia.

Meanwhile, some bank customers in Catalonia withdrew symbolic amounts of money to protest against financial institutions that have moved their official headquarters to other locations in Spain amid the political crisis. CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, the largest Catalan lenders, are among nearly 1,000 financial institutions and businesses that have moved their official registration out of Catalonia in the past few weeks.

The crisis over Catalonia's quest for independence escalated Thursday, as Spain's central government prepared to start activating Article 155 after Catalan president Carles Puigdemont refused to abandon secession. In his latest display of brinkmanship, Puigdemont sent a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy just minutes before a deadline set by Madrid for him to backtrack on his calls to secede. Puigdemont didn't give in, however, and threatened to go ahead with a unilateral proclamation of independence if the government refuses to negotiate. Spain's government responded by calling Saturday's Cabinet session to activate Article 155.

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