BARCELONA, Spain — The Spanish government moved to activate a previously untapped
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Cabinet was meeting to outline the scope and timing of the measures the government plans to take under Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. The article allows central authorities to intervene when one of Spain's 17 autonomous regions fails to comply with the law.
It's never been used since the 1978 Constitution was adopted, but Rajoy's conservative government says establishing direct control over Catalonia was a move of last resort.
The goal is "the return to legality and the recovery of institutional normalcy," the prime minister said Friday.
Rajoy could force the removal of Catalan officials and call early regional elections for as soon as January. Such actions are expected to spark angry opposition from supporters of independence and moderate Catalans who will see them as an attack on their autonomy.
The vote itself was marred by sporadic violence as police took action to shut down some polling locations. The central government says the results have no legitimacy.
Opposition parties have agreed to support the prime minister in revoking Catalonia's autonomy as a way to thwart the independence drive.
Although the ruling Popular Party has enough majority to get the specific measures passed by the country's Senate, Rajoy has rallied the support of the opposition to give his government's actions more weight. .
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has threatened to call a vote in the regional parliament for an explicit declaration of independence from Spain.