Catalonia independence: Rajoy's moves are an 'attack on democracy'

Credit: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has responded to Spain's plans to sack Catalonia's leaders and take control of the region as an "attack on democracy".

Spain announced the unprecedented plan which also involves calling a new local election by using previously untapped constitutional powers to take control of the region that is threatening to secede.

Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont responded by making a veiled independence threat, telling lawmakers to come up with a plan to counter Spain's "attempt to wipe out self-government."

Puigdemont called the plans by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy an "attempt to humiliate" Catalonia and an "attack on democracy."

He joined a large protest in Barcelona on Saturday where many were aghast at the plans announced earlier in the day by Rajoy.

Puigdemont called Rajoy's move the "the worst attack" on Catalan people and institutions since Gen. Francisco Franco's abolishment of Catalonia's regional government in 1939.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy wants to dissolve the Catalan government. Credit: AP

Spain's prime minister said earlier he wants the country's senate to give him direct power to dissolve the Catalan government and call an early election as soon as possible.

Mariano Rajoy said the central government needs to take the unprecedented step of assuming control of Catalonia to "restore order" in the face of a secession effort backed by the regional government.

This was echoed by Alfonso Dastis, the country's Foreign Ministrer who told The Andrew Marr Show, who said the Spanish Government was "trying to restore legal order and Catalan rules.

He continued that this would be achieved through a regional election whih would "restore law and order and normal life".

In the meantime, Mr Dastis said he hoped people in Catalonia would "disregard any instructions" given by the Catalan government.

Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis Credit: The Andrew Marr Show/BBC

However, he was unable to explain what would happen to Mr Puidgemont and others if they refused to comply with Madrid's decision to replace them.

Mr Rajoy has proposed that the powers of Catalan officials be taken over by central government ministers until an election is called.

Mr Rajoy's government is activating a previously untapped constitutional article to take control of Catalonia.

The move is aimed at blocking the independence movement that has gained pace since a disputed October 1 referendum on separating Catalonia from Spain.

Police used force to keep people from voting in the disputed referendum. Credit: AP

Some 43% of Catalans voted in the referendum, with 90% backing independence.

However, the majority of anti-independence voters reportedly boycotted the vote.

The disputed vote was also marred with widespread violence, with some 900 people injured as riot police armed with shields, batons and guns with rubber bullets clashed with peaceful protestors.

However, Mr Dastis disputed the violence, saying many of the images aired around the world of the chaos during the referendum were "fake".

He continued there were "lots of alternative facts and fake news" surrounding the referendum, arguing instead that any use of force was "limited" and only in response to any violence faced by the authorities.

In the streets of Barcelona, banging pots and pans and honking cars greeted Mr Rajoy's announcement.

At the national level, Pablo Echenique, a secretary in the far-left Podemos party, vowed to work to oust Mr Rajoy and his conservative Popular Party.

Pro-business Ciudadanos (Citizens) party president Albert Rivera says he supports the announced measures to heal divisions created by the Catalan independence movement and to provide the security companies need to remain in Catalonia.