Rajoy Could Struggle to Implement Direct Rule in Catalonia

Active and passive resistance from Catalan officials could make it difficult to impose rule from Madrid.

Mariano Rajoy
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is about to deliver a news conference in Madrid, July 13, 2016 (PP)

Spain is due to revoke Catalonia’s autonomy after the regional parliament voted for independence. But it could struggle to implement direct rule.

Mariano Rajoy’s government is expected to:

  • Order the Catalan government to step down;
  • Curtail the powers of the Catalan parliament;
  • Put Catalan public media under Spanish supervision; and
  • Call regional elections within six months.

The question is if and how he will be able to enforce this.

Trouble ahead

  • Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet could refuse to step down. Then what will Spain do? Arrest them?
  • Active and passive resistance from Catalan officials could make life difficult for Spanish administrators. El País reports that just 9 percent of civil servants in Catalonia work for the national government compared to 16 percent in neighboring Valencia and 19 percent in Andalusia.
  • The Catalan News Agency (ACN), Catalunya Ràdio and TV3 have denounced the threat of Spanish control as a “direct attack on the citizens of Catalonia” and a “denial of their right to true, objective, pluralistic, balanced information”.
  • The opposition Socialists, whose support Rajoy needs in the national parliament, are bitterly divided. The Catalan branch of the party opposes both independence and direct rule from Madrid.
  • Basque nationalists, whose support Rajoy also needs, oppose suspending Catalan home rule altogether.