And that may not even be the most dramatic Spanish political event of the day.
The result manages to be shocking without being truly a surprise. Promises by the regional government to declare independence have been rumbling ever since the brutal suppression of October 1’s referendum on Catalan independence, a vote considered illegal by the current terms of Spain’s national constitution. The first counterblast has already been issued: The Spanish Senate, the upper house of the national parliament in Madrid, just agreed to revoke Catalonia’s autonomy by triggering the constitution’s Article 155, taking over regional powers until an election for a new regional government can be held.
The position of Puigdemont’s government is even more precarious. The October 1 referendum delivered a majority for independence but received only a 42.3 percent turnout. Breaking away from Spain on the strength of a vote in which less than half the electorate actually cast a ballot is tenuous, even if Catalonia’s government can, with ample justification, blame the disruption by national police for the low participation.
Catalan opinion polls in the run-up to the referendum showed majority support for remaining part of Spain. A crackdown from Spain’s national government could galvanize and solidify support for breaking away that wasn’t present earlier in the year. Or it might do the opposite, leaving members of Puigdemont’s Junts pel Sí (“Together for Yes”) coalition out of power and quite possibly behind bars.
So is there any hope now for de-escalating the crisis? Both the national and regional governments seem determined to hurtle right to a very embittered endgame. In other parts of the political spectrum, however, positions are somewhat more malleable. Spain’s left-wing party Podemos has declared itself both against triggering Article 155 and unilaterally declaring independence. As Citylab reported Sunday, Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau, whose Barcelona en Comucitizen platform is loosely allied with Podemos, holds the same position. Spain’s center-left socialist parties—the national PSOE and Catalonia’s PSC—are in favor of invoking Article 155 under certain conditions, but have advocated snap elections in Catalonia as an alternative way out of the impasse.