Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had and has an obligation to uphold the Spanish Constitution which, among other things, made the recent Catalan independence referendum illegal even to hold. I’ve written elsewhere about what I think of his tactics in his enforcement campaign.
Whether Rajoy ordered his Policia Nacional and his Guardia Civil to engage in the violence they inflicted in Catalonia (nearly 900 Catalan casualties) or they acted on their own initiative, it’s hard to believe Rajoy was so stupid as to not know the violence would ensue when he ordered them in.
Now Rajoy has moved to invoke Article 155, which would allow him to seize control of the autonomous province from Madrid and among other things force new elections in Catalonia to get a new government, hopefully more…respectful…of Madrid imperatives. The question is before the Spanish Senate as I write this piece on Saturday.
Two questions arise from Rajoy’s tactics (I hesitate to call the performance a strategy, anymore) so far:
1) What will Rajoy do if, as a result of his forced elections, Catalan separatist supporters are again elected to majorities in the Catalan government?
2) Is Rajoy prepared to send Spanish divisions into Catalonia to enforce Madrid’s rule there? Given the tactics he’s already chosen to enforce his will, that’s the choice this affair of his is coming down to.
Whichever way he chooses on the second question will end very badly for both Spain and Catalonia. Choosing not to send his military across the frontier will amount to abject Spanish surrender to the separatists’ movement, however the latter might choose to play that out (perhaps negotiations would still be possible after Art 155 is officially invoked; the Catalans have been asking for talks all along, even though Rajoy has rejected them out of hand all along). Choosing to send the military in will both magnify and solidify a political, cultural, and emotional split between Catalonia and Spain, regardless of how militarily successful Rajoy might be.