It didn’t take much for Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to turn from hero to villain for the local separatists.
Shortly after news hit that Puigdemont would not be declaring independence but would instead seek new elections, some time around Dec. 30, Catalan separatists revelled against his plan to draw back from declaring independence as Spanish authorities finalize plans to oust his insurgent administration. A crowd gathered in the square in front of the Catalan government palace chanted “traitoers” and “Attention, PdeCat, patience is over.”
As reported earlier, Puigdemont is now set to call regional elections, according to two people familiar with his thinking. According to Bloomberg, he was due to make a statement before addressing the Catalan parliament in the evening, but it was delayed and then canceled. Two lawmakers quit Puigdemont’s party, saying they disagreed with the decision.
On Thursday, several Catalan media outlets also reported that Puigdemont has just dissolved or is about to dissolve the Catalan regional parliament and call new regional elections in a bid to avoid the central government applying Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to suspend home rule in Catalonia. However, the Spanish government had said this week that just calling early elections at this late stage would not be enough to stop the application of the Article 155 measures.
The Spanish Prime Minister’s office, Moncloa, told The Spain Report at 12:30 p.m. that there was so far “no change” in the central government’s plan to press ahead with the implementation of Article 155.
Bloomberg then added that Spain’s Supreme Court refused petitions from Catalonia to suspend the central government’s plan to use constitutional powers to force the region to obey national law.
Requests for urgent injunction were made by Catalonia regional govt and Generality against govt’s Oct. 21 Cabinet approval to use Article 155 powers
In other words, Puigdemont’s capitulation may have been for nothing.
In any event, a decision to hold elections would be seen as a retreat by the Catalan leadership after weeks of escalating tensions which have put put Barcelona on a knife edge. Spain entered a critical 48 hours with Puigdemont facing a make-or-break decision that could either ease tensions or see him unilaterally declare Catalonia a sovereign republic and risk deepening the biggest constitutional crisis in since an attempted coup in 1981.
Catalonia’s foreign affairs chief, Raul Romeva, suggested in an interview on Wednesday separatist leaders would consider dropping their demand for independence should the Spanish government offer a palatable way out.
Marta Rovira, a senior Catalan lawmaker in the pro-independence alliance, said she doesn’t agree with the decision about how to take the separatist campaign forward, but she’s prepared to fall into line. “I respect the president’s decision and his arguments, but I don’t share them,” Rovira said in an interview.
Worse, elections might not be enough to appease the 2 million or so supporters the independence campaign claims to have. The main activist group ratcheted up expectations of a dramatic statement on Friday. The Catalan National Assembly has called its members to surround the regional parliament from noon, a human shield against Rajoy’s authorities. “Now we have to defend the republic,” the group’s leadership said in a text message to its members.
News reports have also trickled down that various local political organizations, such as the ETC, would exit the government if Puidgemont calls elections.
And while we await Puigdemont’s formal announcement either way, Spanish assets are delighted by the Catalan retreat, with the IBEX Index rising as much as 2%. Bonds rallied, the yield spread between Spanish and German government debt narrowing by about six basis points. It was at 113 basis points at 1:55 p.m. in Madrid. In short, the market wins again.
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