After the latest Spanish deadline for the Catalans expired, the office of Spain's prime minister is scheduling an "extraordinary meeting" to consider invoking Article 155. Madrid said this would "restore legality."
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced on Thursday in Madrid that his government would take steps to enact Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution for the first time in Spanish history, thereby suspending Catalan regional autonomy and paving the way for new regional elections.
"The Spanish government will continue with the procedures outlined in Article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in Catalonia's self-government," it said in a statement it also shared on Twitter.
The statement also announced that a special cabinet meeting had been set for Saturday to move forward with Article 155 and establish the necessary measures. Once the cabinet approves these, the proposal will pass to the Senate, the upper chamber of the Spanish parliament, for approval. The process could take up to around a week.
However, members of Rajoy's ruling government were meeting Thrusday with the opposition socialists to being outlining possible measures.
The central government underlined that the ultimate goal of enacting Article 155 was "to protect the general interests of Spaniards, including the citizens of Catalonia, and restore the constitutional order in the autonomous community."
Puigdemont has promised to lift the suspension on Catalan independence if Article 155 is triggered.
The government's response came half an hour after Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont refused to budge from his secessionist stance in the final moments of a 10 a.m. local time (0800 UTC/GMT) deadline.
Instead of issuing a clear position on his bid for secession and backing down from his secessionist course, as Spain had demanded, Puigdemont reiterated his calls for dialogue with Spain's central government. He warned that the regional parliament in Barcelona could formally vote for independence, should the central government "persist in impeding dialogue and continuing the repression."
"The [Catalan] Parliament will proceed and vote on the formal declaration of independence that it did not vote on on October 10," the Catalan leader said.
The Catalan regional and Spanish central governments have been trading off demands in constitutional crisis ever since Puigdemont declared a mandate for Catalan independence on October 10, only to suspend it seconds later.
Puigdemont had already failed once on October 16 to give Madrid a "clear and simple" yes or no answer as to whether or not he had declared Catalan independence. Thursday's statement marked the second — and last — chance that the central government had laid out before it would seek to apply Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution from 1978, which would suspend Catalan regional autonomy and pave the way for new regional elections.
On October 1, some 2 million Catalans took part in a referendum on independence that Spain's top court had declared unconstitutional. Some 90 percent cast their votes of secession from Spain, through less than half of eligible voters turned out, with many who oppose independence staying away from the illegal referendum.
Despite the firm political direction of Puigdemont, Catalonia remains divided over the prospect of breakaway from Spain. Hundreds and thousands of independence supporters and opponents have taken to the streets over the past years, and demonstrations from both sides have been planned for the upcoming days.