The most talked-about number in Spanish politics these days is: 155.
Article 155 of Spain’s constitution allows the government in Madrid to intervene directly in the running of an autonomous region, effectively ending a system of self-government that is at the core of the country’s democratic order. After decades of obscurity, the article is emerging as a central issue in the political battle over Catalonia, the northeastern region that is pushing for independence.
As the Catalan government prepares to hold a referendum on secession this year, there is growing clamour in Madrid to invoke Article 155 and compel regional leaders to drop the vote and obey the constitution. The article allows the state to take all “necessary measures” to ensure compliance; if need be, by replacing officials and sending in the police.