What next for the Catalans? The criticial choices to be faced next week

Carles Puigdemont.
Carles Puigdemont. / EFE
  • Carles Puigdemont refuses to deviate from his independence plan while PM Mariano Rajoy rules out considering using a mediator

This weekend Spain appeared to be at its most important crossroads since democracy was restored forty years ago.

Despite attempts by central government to disrupt the unconstitutional referendum on independence organised by the Catalan regional government, the vote which went ahead anyway last Sunday has spurned regional leaders, led by Carles Puigdemont, to carry on with their plan to convert Catalonia into an independent state.

What happens next in Catalonia is likely to be clearer on Monday when the Catalan regional parliament is due to meet for the first time since the illegal vote.

Although Spain's constitutional court has put a temporary ban on that meeting as well, separatist MPs, who hold a majority, are still expected to attend.

Monday's session, if it goes ahead, will determine if the ruling coalition of separatist parties will carry on with the independence plan or if the more moderate elements will call for a temporary truce.

The lack of international support for an independent Catalan state may temper the more radical calls for going independent now or even split the coalition, commentators said.

Article 155

While the Catalan government faces its most critical decision so far, Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy also has to make a difficult choice having continued to rule out allowing any sort of mediation between the opposing sides in Madrid and Barcelona.

Calls were growing this week for the PM to invoke Article 155 of the 1978 Spanish constitution for the first time.

This would not suspend Catalonia's devolved status, but instead allow Madrid to intervene for a period of time if it felt that Spain was threatened, including possibly taking control of the regional Mossos force or possibly even calling regional elections.

There is disagreement among lawyers and experts about how far Madrid could legally go under the so-far untested Article 155.