According to the Independent:

Spain has announced it will impose direct rule over Catalonia, after the region's leaders failed to meet a deadline to withdraw a declaration of independence.

This will be done by triggering article 155 from the Spanish Constitution:

If a self-governing community does not fulfill the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain, the government, after having lodged a complaint with the president of the self-governing community and failed to receive satisfaction therefore, may, following approval granted by the overall majority of the senate, take all measures necessary to compel the community to meet said obligations, or to protect the above mentioned general interest.

With a view to implementing the measures provided for in the foregoing paragraph, the government may issue instructions to all the authorities of the self-governing communities."

What does this actually mean? Will all Catalan parliamentary immediately lose their positions?

Question: What are the exact political effects of direct Spanish rule over Catalonia?


4 Answers 4


UPDATE 23/10

After breaking up the "Soft 155" deal with the PSOE, the PP will enforce a "hard 155":

  1. Deposing all of catalonia's cabinet.
  2. Appointing a temporary cabinet, unrevokable.
  3. Restricting the rights of the parliament, deciding what and what not they can vote, acquiring a right to Veto on the laws that look contrary or undermining to the central government.
  4. Removing control sessions on cabinet members.
  5. Taking control of the catalan TV & radio
  6. Taking direct control of the catalan police corps
  7. Calling for a snap election in 6 months.

We don't know yet if they will illegalize parties.

UPDATE 20/10

Sources state this possible outcome after a reunion between PP and PSOE parties:

  1. The central government won't depose the president of Catalonia
  2. They will take control of the catalan electoral council
  3. They will order it to call for a Snap Election in 4-6 months ( January - February)
  4. They will order the TSJC ( superior tribunal of Catalonia) to take care of the organization
  5. They will not illegalize the Pro-Indy parties

I'm not sure what they expect to happen in 6 months.

Source number 1 - El Diario

Source Number 2 - El País

TLDR (OUTDATED) Nobody knows.

It's a measure never used before, that only those who wrote it in 1977, being so wide and open in consequences and measure, can grasp its potential.

Not so TLDR

Althought the government (of Spain) say that they can take full control, the law explicitly states:

With a view to implementing the measures provided for in the foregoing paragraph, the government may issue instructions to all the authorities of the self-governing communities

With this in hand, they can directly instruct the non-political Heads of Department to obey direct instructions, but it doesn't look like they can either Forcibly Depose the presidency (and the attached regional government) or Dissolve the Chamber.

Of course, with the politicized Constitutional court by their side, they could also do Anything based on the next words:

Take all measures necessary to compel the community to meet said obligations, or to protect the above mentioned general interest.


We'll know on Saturday, when the government meets to dictate the measures that later the Senate (ruled by the same party) will approve, what article 155 actually means.

  • 1
    To add more information non relevant to the answer directly: Only the president of Spain ( Mariano Rajoy) can dismiss the spanish parliament, and, being the electoral law the same in the other regions of spain, the same applies to catalonia. Only President Puigdemont can dismiss the chamber and call for elections.
    – CptEric
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 13:14
  • 2
    Article 155 is a law (it is an article of the Spanish Constitution). When "155 is activated", what is set in motion is a procedure that includes everything. The regulation of the Spanish Senate (article 189), says that if the 155 is activated, the Government has to clarify what measures it will take. senado.es/web/conocersenado/normas/reglamentootrasnormassenado/… The Spanish Government has already clarified that elections would be called immediately. The law must be read complete.
    – Peppo
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 14:33
  • 2
    @Peppo Being Rajoy president, until the proposal is made on the Senate - and probably only after the proposal is discussed and approved - you can't be sure what the hell is going to happen. The spanish government rarely clarifies anything, ever. We'll have to wait.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:24

According to this report in the Guardian, Article 155 does not trigger particular actions, but rather authorises the national government to take them. In order to trigger the Article, it will have to define those actions, and put them before the Senate for approval.

The Guardian quotes "a senior government spokesman":

We have envisaged a range of scenarios and will apply 155 accordingly. It’s not a question of applying it in its entirety or of taking over every government function or department. Clearly the Catalan government would lose many of its powers, though not all. It’s a case of using a scalpel, not an axe.

So (according to this source) Article 155 does not automatically dissolve all regional offices, but the government will likely use it to take control of some of them, in a way it sees as appropriate to "restore constitutional order".

In practice, this probably means top officials in certain government functions being removed from their posts and replaced by those answerable directly to Madrid rather than Barcelona.

  • The analysis being circulated talk more about "taking control" than "disolving" regional offices (more specifically, Economy -to control the money- and local police). "Dissolving" offices could be very complicated, as it forces the government to find a way to provide the services those offices were performing.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 16:10
  • @SJuan76 Good point. "Dissolve" implies they would sack everybody and start again, whereas "take control" would probably mean sacking the top officials deemed to be untrustworthy, and assuming that the rest of the organisation could be brought in line that way.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 16:17

The roadmap is at present rather vague: we know what the next steps are from the Senate regulations, article 189 (as mentioned by Peppo in a comment on another answer): the government sends the Senate a list of its proposals, which are analysed either by the Autonomous Communities Committee or by a committee appointed specially (which has certain advantages for the government); this committee must take evidence from the president of the relevant region (Puigdemont in the case of Catalonia), and then submit a reasoned analysis of the proposals and their own proposed amendments to a plenary session of the Senate. An absolute majority suffices to approve them, but the PP has an absolute majority in the Senate.

However, Rajoy and Saénz play their cards close to their chests. The government's statement says that the cabinet will vote on the proposals "next Saturday" but doesn't say what proposals will be put to them. We can draw some inferences from statements by other members of the PP:

So pace Peppo, the elections are not automatic.

Of course, there's a lot more than just elections. El País again cites anonymous sources to claim that it's likely that the Catalan equivalent of the minister of the interior will be stripped of his powers and the heads of the regional police forces deposed.


If the Spanish government activates article 155:

  • The Catalan parliament ceases to have activity and "value".
  • The delegate of the Spanish Government in Catalonia (Enric Millo) takes control of the Catalan institutions.
  • Then autonomic elections are called (and the Catalan parliament dissolves).

In order for the Spanish Government to activate 155, it requests authorization from the Senate, indicating the measures to be taken. There, it is indicated that elections would be automatically called. (source)

In these statements, the President of the Government says that one of the measures to be taken is the "immediate declaration of elections".

As soon as autonomics elections are called, the parliament is dissolved, so all Catalan parliamentary immediately lose their positions.

  • 1
    Could you provide a rough translation of your source regarding elections automatically being called? Other sources I've read indicate either that dissolving the parliament is an action they could take but probably won't choose to; or that it's not within their power even if they wanted to (e.g. CptEric's answer on this page).
    – IMSoP
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 14:50
  • 1
    Your second paragraph contradicts your list of things that apparently would happen if article 155 is activated. If a proposal of measures needs to be presented to, and approved by, the senate how do you know that any of those points will actually take place? As far as you know the only direct rule that might take place is administrative. Calling new autonomic elections might actually be a shoot in the foot for the central government, since there is no guarantee that the new winner is not a pro-independence party.
    – armatita
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:43
  • And by the way: admittedly my Spanish isn't the best but I don't see anything about automatic elections in your link or the actual Article 155 of the Spanish constitution. Please make that point clearer otherwise your answer becomes more of a piece of propaganda and less of a factual well supported answer to the question.
    – armatita
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:55
  • 1
    There is nothing in the text that you link (or the analysis that are being circulated) that implies dissolution of the Catalonian Parliament; the only reference to the affected local government is that its President (or a delegate chosen by him) will be required to appear at the Senate to explain his POV. There has been a proposal from Rajoy for the Catalonian Parliament to call new elections as a way to unblock the situation to avoid the invocation of the 155. I cannot find no reference to Rajoy declaring that he will dissolve the Catalonian Parliament after the 155 is invoked.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 16:05
  • 1
    Of course, if you can find a source for the claim that Rajoy plans to call for new elections if the 155 is invoked, you should link to it.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 16:08

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