The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has this Monday raised the possibility of reapplying article 155 of the Spanish Constitution if the new Catalan government to come from the ballot boxes on 21st December doesn't respect the law. Hours later, in Barcelona, deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría didn't back down, but gave a warning: "It's fundamental for the government which comes from the ballot boxes to respect the law". Otherwise, the damage they believe "the mess of the [independence] process" has caused would be "chronic". Article 155 was implemented for the first time in response to what the central government saw as violations of the law during the independence process.
This was the Spanish deputy prime minister's debut in the election campaign. Accompanied by her party's candidate, Xavier Garcia Albiol, she met with representatives of guilds and associations of the restaurant, tourism and commerce sectors in Barcelona. "The damage in economic and social terms is already done, but can be reverted," she said, going on that "we have to avoid this damage, which has been very intense, becoming chronic". According to Santamaría, "the damage is so great that they should think carefully if they want to return to the path of illegality". At no point did she refer to a possible second application of article 155, the subject of the question.
After the meeting with the representatives of these sectors, the Spanish leader said there is a need to "relaunch the Barcelona brand", which has "great potential" but is in an unfavourable situation. "It's not fair that, due to the political situation of the process, trust in a quality brand has deteriorated," she said. As such, she considered a change in the occupants of the Catalan government palace to be "crucial", which "allows [us] to have an interlocutor who, within the law, worries about reversing the difficult political moment". She said that only by "fixing the social fracture" caused by the process will the "economic fracture" be fixed.
According to Santamaría, the falls seen in the tourism sector have been "very important". There have been "very considerable drops which could reach 30%". She gave another statistic: whilst unemployment in the service sector has grown 7.5% in Catalonia in October and November, in Spain it has dropped 3.2%. She said that, with the relevant ministries, they are "comparing" the measures they could take to recover the confidence they believe to have been lost. The agents of the sector "need a climate of tranquillity and normality", she said. Article 155 has helped to return this normality she argued.
The meeting, which lasted over two hours, was attended by representatives of guilds and associations of the restaurant, tourism and commerce sectors, like the president of the guild of hotel owners, Jordi Clos, the president of Turismo Barcelona, Joan Gasper and the president of the association of Passeig de Gràcia merchants, Lluís Sans, among others.