100 days of article 155: ‘the nuclear option’

Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution includes the following words:

… the Government … may … take the measures necessary …

It’s carte blanche. It’s like having only a blank in the chamber in a game of Russian roulette. It’s like being dealt 12 cards of the same suit in the classic Catalan card game botifarra, and being able to choose trumps. It doesn’t matter what the other players have and it doesn’t matter what they play.

Approved by the Senate on 27 October 2017, article 155 of the Spanish Constitution has allowed the Spanish government to impose direct rule from Madrid on the Autonomous region of Catalonia, giving them control of all branches of government. In fact, despite denying it, the Spanish government had already illegally assumed control of the exchequer on 20 September.

In the hands of a competent and benevolent government, the problem would be relative, nominal even. In the hands of this particular criminal gang of sociopathic kleptomaniac nationalists, intent on crushing a contrary political movement whatever the cost, it is a very dangerous instrument. Catalonia’s purse strings are being used like a torturesome plastic bag restricting oxygen to the economy.

There isn’t even a pretence of separation of powers in the enforcement of the rule of law in Spain. Don Mariano’s ministers, Doña Soraya and Don Rafael in particular, announce and preview legal decisions before they are made, pressure the judiciary and openly boast of their success. Don Pablo sprays around threats of execution by firing squad and imprisonment, and warnings to remember one’s children before acting. Pure mafia.

In articles 472 (rebellion) and 544 (sedition) of the Spanish penal code, violence and/or tumult are pre-requisites. In the legal circus of Spain’s High and Supreme courts, judges Maza, Lamela and Llarena initially had to perform legal contorsions and acrobatics to make the case for the application of these articles, which carry up to 30 and 15 years imprisonment respectively, and do so again in the rejections of appeals. Llarena’s rulings have become ever less legal and ever more political as the days have passed. It is now brazen; barefaced, like the lying.

On 1 October no one died, it was a provoked beating, only a thousand people were injured, and only a few seriously, they say. No one has died since as a result of 155 either, unless you consider Maza’s untimely death last November due to a kidney infection to have been related.

The effects of 155 have, however, been highly destructive. I was unsure how much of it people would be able to take when it was applied. 100 days on and the Catalan people, their institutions and their economy are suffering. Start squeezing the health service even further than it was squeezed by austerity measures and then by Don Jorge as part of Operation Catalonia, and maybe people will die. It will, of course, be their own fault; they asked for it after all. Any measures necessary for the honour of Spain; the rule of law for all, they say.

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The effects of 155, 472 and 544 so far include:

  • removal from office of president Puigdemont and vice-president Junqueras
  • suspension of the entire government and imposition of direct rule
  • 5 members of the government exiled in Belgium
  • 10 members of the government and 2 civil leaders imprisoned on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds (4 remain in jail awaiting trial, all bail appeals having been rejected)
  • 10 other government officials detained
  • sacking of elected officials and civil servants, including the chief of police
  • a total of 252 officials removed from office
  • accusations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds
  • indictment and suspension from office of elected officials and civil servants
  • the closing of foreign delegations of the Catalan government
  • 23 government offices unable to contract staff
  • numerous lapsed inititives and bills through parliament
  • paralysis of government bodies and public sector organisations
  • withholding of funds causing late or non-payment by government
  • paralysis of government contracts
  • suppression of Catalan use in official documentation
  • the blocking or cancellation of subsidies for cultural events
  • the cancellation of public events
  • the suffocation of CMAA – TV3, 324, Catalunya Radio, etc – via a VAT rule change, bringing the organisation to its knees despite their having their best year ever in terms of viewer and listener numbers
  • the suffocation of the health service, with 25 million lost through cancelled or unrenewed services

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Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in English:


1. If an Autonomous Community does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the Constitution or other laws, or acts in a way seriously prejudicing the general interests of Spain, the Government, after lodging a complaint with the President of the Autonomous Community and failing to receive satisfaction therefore, may, following approval granted by an absolute majority of the Senate, take the measures necessary in order to compel the latter forcibly to meet said obligations, or in order to protect the above-mentioned general interests.

2. With a view to implementing the measures provided in the foregoing clause, the Government may issue instructions to all the authorities of the Autonomous Communities


Article 472 (rebellion) in English:


Article 472
A conviction for the offence of rebellion shall be handed down to those who violently and publicly rise up for any of the following purposes:
1. To fully or partially repeal, suspend or amend the Constitution;
2. To fully or partially strip the King, the Regent or members of the Regency of all or part of their prerogatives and powers, or to oblige them to execute an act contrary to their will;
3. To prevent freely holding elections to public offices;
4. To dissolve the Cortes, the Congress of Deputies, the Senate or any Legislative Assembly of an Autonomous Community, to prevent them from meeting, discussing or resolving, to force them to pass any resolution, or to strip them of any of their attributions or powers.
5. To declare the independence of any part of the national territory;
6. To replace the Government of the Nation or the Governing Council of an Autonomous Community with another, or to use or exercise oneself, or to strip the Government or Governing Council of an Autonomous Community, or any of its members, of their powers, or to prevent or limit the free exercise thereof, or to force any of them to carry out acts against their will;
7. To disaffect from obedience to the Government any armed force.


Articles 544-549 (sedition) in English:


Article 544
Conviction for sedition shall befall those who, without being included in the felony of rebellion, publicly and tumultuously rise up to prevent, by force or outside the legal channels, application of the laws, or any authority, official corporation or public officer from lawful exercise of the duties thereof or implementation of the resolutions thereof, or of administrative or judicial resolutions.
Article 545
1. Those who have induced, sustained or directed the seditionist who appear as the main doers thereof, shall be punished with a sentence of imprisonment from eight to ten years, and with that ten to fifteen years if they are persons with the status of an authority. In both cases, absolute barring for the same term shall also be imposed.
2. Apart from those cases, a punishment from four to eight years imprisonment and of special barring from public employment and office for a term from four to eight years shall be imposed.
Article 546
The terms set forth in Article 474 are applicable to the case of sedition when this has not been organised with known leaders.
Article 547
In the event of the sedition not having managed to seriously interfere with exercise of the public authority nor having caused commission of another felony for which the Law prescribes serious penalties, the Judges or Courts of Law shall lower the penalties stated in this Chapter by one or two degrees.
Article 548
Provocation, conspiracy and solicitation of sedition shall be punished with the penalties lower by one or two degrees to those respectively foreseen, except if the sedition takes place, in which case it shall be punished with the penalty set forth in Section 1 of Article 545, and its principals shall be deemed promoters.
Article 549
The provisions contained in Articles 479 to 484 are also applicable to the offence of sedition.

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