Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had set out to “humiliate” Catalonia in an “attack on democracy”- Catalan leader

Madrid’s moves to take back some powers from Catalonia are the “worst attack since the dictatorship of Franco”.

The Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was reacting to the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s announcement that he has approved implementing the previously unused Article 155 of the country’s constitution to assume control of the region in a bid to thwart secession attempts.

Mr Puigdemont said Mr Rajoy had set out to “humiliate” Catalonia in an “attack on democracy”.

He said removing powers from Catalonia was the “worst attack against the institutions and the people of Catalonia since the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco”.

He added: “I ask the parliament to meet in a plenary session during which we, the representatives of the citizens’ sovereignty, will be able to decide over this attempt to liquidate our government and our democracy and act in consequence.”

Mr Rajoy said he wants the senate to give him permission to dissolve the regional government in Barcelona and call early elections.

He announced the measures to take over the regional cabinet’s functions after a crisis meeting of his own cabinet in the wake of the 1 October independence referendum deemed illegal by Madrid.

Under his plans, the powers of Catalan officials would be transferred to the Spanish government – but he stressed he did not want to use them to rule Catalonia directly.

About 90% of Catalans who voted in the referendum backed breaking away from Spain, but only 40% of eligible voters cast a ballot, with many pro-union supporters declining to vote.

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