Spain's prime minister urged the country's Senate Friday to grant special constitutional measures to allow the central government to take control of Catalonia's autonomous powers in an attempt to halt the region's independence bid.
Mariano Rajoy told senators that Spain is facing a challenge not seen in its recent history, adding that what is happening in Catalonia is “a clear violation of the laws, of democracy, of the rights of all, and that has consequences.''
Rajoy said if the Senate approves, the government's first step would be to take control of the region and dismiss it's president and cabinet ministers.
If Senate, in which Rajoy’s party has an absolute majority, moves to approve the prime minister’s request, it will be the first time in four decades that the national government in Madrid would directly run the affairs of one of Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions.
There is speculation that Catalonia's regional parliament may take the step of declaring independence during a special session later Friday.
Several thousand protesters gathered near parliament waving Catalan flags and chanting “independence” and “freedom,” hoping to see the proclamation of a new independent state.
Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont, however, has kept Spain in suspense by again failing to declare independence for his region, following an October 1 referendum in which 90 percent of Catalans who cast ballots voted for secession.
The Spanish government denounced the referendum as unconstitutional and used police to try to block the vote, limiting voter participation to about 50 percent.
The Catalan leader expressed wishes to reach a negotiated solution with the central government over the independence impasse, which has divided Catalans and caused a nationalist backlash in the rest of Spain. However, the central government has not responded to the request for dialogue.