A Glossary of Spain’s Constitutional Crisis: From 155 to DUI

  • Regional president to address Catalan Parliament Tuesday
  • Catalonia keeps Spain guessing on independence declaration

From Article 155 to DUI, the Spanish constitutional crisis is a thicket of confusing acronyms and abbreviations. Here’s a glossary to help you through the confrontation that’s hurtling to its climax in Barcelona this week:

ANC | Not to be confused with the regional parliament, or indeed Nelson Mandela’s political party, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) is a civic organization led by Jordi Sanchez that advocates for secession. It has 40,000 paying members and local branches in about 500 municipalities. Sanchez faces possible sedition charges and up to 15 years in jail for his role in organizing the Oct. 1 makeshift referendum.

Article 155 | Spain’s former foreign secretary, José Manuel García-Margallo, once described this article in the 1978 Constitution as an “atomic bomb.” It’s never been used before and would allow Madrid to suspend the regional administration and take direct control of Catalonia. Click here for an official English translation of Spain’s Constitution.

A separatist flag.
Photographer: Geraldine Hope Ghelli/Bloomberg

Carles Puigdemont | The president of Catalonia was elected at the start of last year as a compromise candidate to break a post-election deadlock between the mainstream separatists of Junts pel Si and the more radical CUP. Since then, he’s been the public face of the separatist push. 

CUP | The Popular Unity Candidacy is a grass-roots Catalan party that has 10 seats in the regional parliament. After Junts pel Si fell just short of a majority in the 2015 regional election, Puigdemont needed the backing of the CUP to take office. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called on Puigdemont to distance himself from the CUP in order to enable talks.

DUI | Short for unilateral declaration of independence, this is the Catalan government’s own nuclear option. Local law stipulates that once a referendum is held (never mind that it was suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court) the results must be presented to parliament. In the event of a “yes” vote, the parliament is supposed to declare independence within two days.

Junts pel Si |  The Catalan name of this political alliance means “Together for Yes.” It’s a coalition of regional parties, including the center-right PDeCAT and the left-wing ERC. After the election, it struck a deal with CUP (see above) to form a majority in parliament and elect Puigdemont and has largely been responsible for the renewed independence push and the Oct. 1 referendum.

Mariano Rajoy | First elected in 2011, Spain’s prime minister is the one with his finger on the Article 155 button. He was widely criticized for the scenes of police violence on Oct. 1 when the separatists held the illegal referendum. Complicating the situation is the fact that his party has lost its majority in parliament in 2015. While opposition parties agreed, eventually, to let him take office again, they’ve refused to back his handling of Catalonia, leaving the prime minister exposed.

Mossos d’Esquadra | The Catalan regional police force. Its chief Josep Lluis Trapero was interrogated by the National Court on possible sedition charges last week after his officers refused to help out national police who were trapped by protesters in Barcelona last month. One of the big questions in the crisis is just how loyal to Madrid the Mossos will be if push comes to shove.

Omnium Cultural | Originally created to promote the Catalan language and culture, the organization has become more political of late and has helped the ANC to bring hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets of Barcelona in previous demonstrations.

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