A dramatic rollercoaster of a day for Catalonia and Spain is ending ominously, with the Catalan president Puigdemont announcing that he would let the region's parliament decide the fate of the Catalan declaration of independence from Spain, capping off a day of furious reversals. The announcement follows a dramatic reversal from the Catalan leader who until just a few hours ago, was expected to announce that he'd call an early election in the region to avoid Spain's takeover of the Catalan government. In the last moment he decided against it, saying there were no guarantees from the Spanish government it would be implemented while facing rebellion from his separatist allies at home; as a result he has washed his hands and decided to leave a decision on independence to his parliament.
Puigdemont made the announcement before a scheduled appearance before the Catalan Parliament on Thursday evening. According to the NYT, he said he made the decision after he had failed to secure a commitment from the central government that it would not take control of the region if he called early elections.
“There are none of the guarantees that justify convening elections today,” Mr. Puigdemont said during a brief televised address from his government headquarters. “I tried to obtain the guarantees,” he added, but “I didn’t get a responsible answer from the Spanish government, which has instead used this option to add to the tension.”
He added: “It is now for Parliament to decide its answer to the application” of Article 155 of the national Constitution.
While the Catalan Parliament - where separatists parties have a small but critical majority - may meet later Thursday, it will be the vote on a declaration of independence on Friday that will be most closely watched; meanwhile, the Spanish Senate is expected to approve emergency measures to impose Madrid’s direct rule on Catalonia.
With the parliament expected to pass the independence declaration absent some last minute intervention, what happens next is unclear, and will likely lead to chaos, both social and economic.
Here is one attempt to predict that chaos on Saturday morning, courtesy of The Spain Report:
The Spanish Prime Minister's office, Moncloa, had confirmed this week that the only way Mr. Puigdemont could deactivate the Article 155 procedure would be to call those early regional elections—normal ones, within the Spanish Constitution—and to make it very clear he did not declare any kind of independence on October 10. This despite the Deputy PM and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) suggesting early elections of any sort might do the trick. On Wednesday, Moncloa confirmed it had brought forward the cabinet meeting to implement the Article 155 measures—after the Senate approves them on Friday morning—from Saturday morning to Friday evening: immediately.
Deputy First Minister Oriol Junqueras told The Associated Press on Wednesday evening that there was now “no other option” but to proclaim a new republic. Mr. Puigdemont posted on Instagram that "We will not lose time with those who have already decided to crush Catalan self-government. Onwards!". They now have nothing to lose. Comments by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the media about long jail sentences for charges of rebellion appear to have had little effect.
Despite not having any international allies, no army, a divided regional police force and more than 1,500 companies that have already moved their corporate addresses outside of the region due to the manifestly illegal and unconstitutional plan to secede from Spain, without even a clear popular mandate, Mr. Puigdemont and Catalan separatists now appear determined to push ahead and declare independence from Spain anyway, in a very, very reckless manner.
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In the latest plot reversal in what become a nail-biting Spanish drama, in which the narrative changes by the hour, moments ago Catalonia president Puigdemont made a televised statement refuted earlier reports he had capitulated to Spanish demands, and said he rejects calls for snap elections. Saying there are "not sufficient guarantees" for elections to take place, Puigdemont said he needs to exhaust all options for solution, and said that he was ready to call election.
"My duty was to try", he said in a statement to reporters shortly after 5 p.m. on Thursday quoted by The Spain Report. "My responsibility was to explore all of the options in my hand to the very end."
"No one will be able to say that I have not been ready to make sacrifices to guarantee dialogue."
"It is now the Catalan Parliament that will have to decide on the response to the application of Article 155", he added, in reference to the article of the Spanish Constitution that the central government will use—for the first time in the modern democratic period—to suspend home rule in a Spanish region.
Outside Catalan government headquarters in Barcelona, separatist supporters filled the square with chants of "independence" after Mr. Pugidemont made his announcement.
A session of the Catalan Parliament it due to begin at 6 p.m.
Puigdemont's latest decision - which may yet be reversed in this ongoing political whirlwind - is sure to infuriate Madrid, which earlier in the day said it was happy with the Catalan decision to call elections. It would also mean that Spain will shortly announce it is seizing control from the Catalan government, and could potentially arrest Puigdemont in prison, even though the local leaders has not formally declared independence.
Meanwhile, in Madrid, a session of the Spanish Senate commission responsible for the Article 155 process has begun. The Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, has formally asked the commission to approve the measures the government has asked for.
A worst case scenario would be for Madrid to announce the confrontation between Madrid and Barcelona is escalatig further, with Spain clamping down on the region's autonomy, and leading to a far more chaotic outcome.
The IBEX is not happy with this latest reversal.