By Isla Binnie and Julien Toyer:MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish government decided on Saturday to sack the secessionist leadership of Catalonia and force the region into a new election, saying it had to take the unprecedented step to prevent the region pushing ahead with independence.
The plan, which still requires the approval of the upper house Senate, seeks to resolve Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades but risks an angry reaction from independence supporters, who plan street protests later in the day.
In outlining the cabinet’s decision, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the Catalan economy, which accounts for a fifth of the national economy, was already in worrying shape as a result of the regional government’s push for independence.
“We will ask the Senate, with the aim of protecting the general interest of the nation, to authorise the government… to sack the Catalan president and his government,” Rajoy told a news conference.
It is the first time since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 1970s that the central government has invoked the constitutional right to take control of a region and rule it directly from Madrid.
Direct rule will include full control of the region’s police, finances and public media. The powers of the regional parliament will also be curbed.