Catalan President Carles Puigdemont announced there will be no elections in the province of Catalonia since the Spanish central government has not given him enough guarantees to do so.
What will happen next is up to the regional parliament to decide. Even declaring a Catalan republic is in the cards.
Puigdemont had declared independence after the October first referendum, but then he took the declaration back asking for discussions with the national government.
Bear in mind that the referendum was illegal under the Spanish constitution and the turnout was 42 percent.
Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, gave the Catalan government five days to decide if they will declare independence, and three days to take it back. After that his government would implement article 155, a never before used provision in the Spanish constitution designed to reign in rebellious regions.
The ultimatum date was in 16th of October. Puigdemont didn’t make his position clear and instead called for further discussions on the matter.
The ruling party of Mariano Rajoy, in cooperation with the other parties of the parliament, had set up a plan for elections and other measures in order to avoid using article 155.
Puigdemont was holding out on accepting the elections or not, in hope of some reconciliatory move from Madrid, but he is a persona non grata: Madrid wants him out of politics regardless of his decision.
Hardliners and the sentiments from the crackdown of the Spanish police during the referendum have left Puigdemont very little wiggle room. Elections would be viewed as a backdown from his supporters and declaring a Catalan republic opens up a whole other can of worms.
Even with his refusal to call for elections but without declaring a Catalan state outright, he angered people. Two lawmakers quit his party and demonstrators gathered outside his house calling him a traitor.
On Friday the Spanish senate will vote for the activation of article 155.
Article 155 essentially suspends autonomy in a region whose government “doesn’t comply with the obligations of the Constitution or other laws it imposes, or acts in a way that seriously undermines the interests of Spain.”
It requires an absolute majority to pass and allows the national government to adopt the “necessary methods” to force the “rebellious” region to comply.
Spain is divided into 17 autonomous regions and governed by a federal government, but without the extent of independence the states have in the U.S.
The problem with article 155 is that is vaguely worded and doesn’t exactly give a roadmap to what is allowed and what is not.
“If a self-governing community does not fulfill the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain, the government, after having lodged a complaint with the president of the self-governing community and failed to receive satisfaction therefore, may, following approval granted by the overall majority of the senate, take all measures necessary to compel the community to meet said obligations, or to protect the above mentioned general interest.”
It also adds: “With a view to implementing the measures provided for in the foregoing paragraph, the government may issue instructions to all the authorities of the self-governing communities.”
That wording, however, leaves much leeway to Mariano Rajoy. His measures could be economical, political or even military.
The threat of Spanish army deployment in Catalonia under article 155 is the least of the Catalan secessionist problems.
The instability caused by the whole thing has seen companies leaving Catalonia and Barcelona for more secure places and most likely that is what will put a lid to the whole thing. What is the point of trying to keep your advantages if there are none left.
Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia