Spain Constitutional Reform Trial Balloon: Bona Fide or Headfake to Split Catalonai?

October 13, 2017

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The Financial Times reports tonight that some members of the Popular Party and its opposition, the PSOE, the Socialists, are trying to find a more durable solution to the standoff in Catalonia via constitutional reform. But is this just a ploy to discredit the separatists if they continue with their plan to declare independence?

The current state of play is that the leader of Catalonia’s movement, Carles Puigdemont and other members of parliament signed a declaration of independence, which was then suspended in the hope that Spain’s government would be willing to entertain negotiations. But this gambit was never likely to succeed. Spain has repeatedly acted to check the separatists, first via obtaining a Constitutional court ruling declaring an independence referendum to be illegal, then using that as the basis for a crackdown. The King’s fierce denunciation of the separatists was another sign that Madrid would cut them no slack. Prime Minister Rajoy has kept the pressure on by demanding that the separatists either follow through with their threat or retreat by insisting that the need to take a position on whether they are independent or not by next Monday.

While the press has focused on the physical steps to prevent the election, such as seizing ballots and having the Guarda Civilia rough up and arrest citizens trying to vote, even more significant was that Spain intervened in Catalonia’s accounts. Spain used the banks that handle Catalonia’s accounts to prevent payments to be made to support the election. That was one reason why more ballots were not printed. Having Spain insert itself in what Catalonia can and cannot pay for is a significant infringement upon its autonomy. It was arguably kosher because the action was taken pursuant to enforcing the Constitutional court ruling. But with this precedent having been set, and the mechanism for control already in place, it would appear that Catalonia’s wings have already been clipped.

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