The catalan head of government made it exciting. Until shortly before the expiry of the madrid ultimatum, carles puigdemont waited until he finally gave the answer expected by all: barcelona will not be diverted from its course toward independence. The central government promptly returned the favor: it wants to keep the rich region in the northeast in the spanish state by means of compulsory purchases.
Legal rather than political communication
Mariano rajoy, the prime minister, is not even willing to engage in the political dialogue that puigdemont has called for. He strictly follows the legal line that the leadership in catalonia is overriding the law in its actions. The arguments for this are provided by his rival himself. In the very first sentence of puigdemont's letter: "the people of catalonia have voted in a referendum on 1. October: independence decided with a high percentage of the vote." The constitutional court had declared this vote unlawful.
For a long time, most spaniards have laughed off the conflict as a provincial farce. This is over. It's nowfifteen to twelve, warned catalan socialist leader miquel iceta on thursday. The 57-year-old – one of the most tempered voices in the conflict and known for his balanced assessments – immediately appeared before journalists after the mutual threats between madrid and barcelona. He warned of a "disaster. Still there is a little time to engage in speech.
What happens next?
This question is on everyone's mind, on the streets, in cafes and offices in madrid and barcelona, but also in valencia, bilbao or malaga. No one dares to give an answer. Spain has never been in such a crisis since the end of the franco dictatorship (1939-1975). Even if some compare the situation with the famous "23-F", the separatists are still in the dark compare.
"23-F", that was the 23. February 1981. During an attempted coup by parts of the guardia civil and the military, lieutenant colonel antonio tejero stormed into a parliamentary session in the evening with hundreds of armed guards. The determined appearance of the then king juan carlos quickly took the wind out of the putschists' sails.
Many now look to juan carlos' son and successor felipe VI. The king will speak this friday in the northern spanish capital of oviedo at the princess of asturias awards ceremony, in the presence of antonio tajani, president of the european parliament. "What felipe says tomorrow will be crucial", the deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper "el pais" awaits his answer, javier ayuso. However, in an address after the referendum in catalonia on 1 january, the king said. October disappointed many who had hoped for incentives to reward him.
Puigdemont proclaims independence?
Puigdemont, on the other hand, could have simply let the ultimatum pass on thursday. With his answer, however, he accommodates the radical forces in his own ranks. Now he has little option but to declare independence.
In the regional parliament, puigdemont's jxsi alliance is dependent on the support of the left-wing party CUP. Both parties have already declared that they will vote for the declaration of independence "in the next few days" want to pass if rajoy resorts to constitutional article 155 – which has now happened.
The announcement of a special meeting of the cabinet on saturday could now accelerate the process towards the declaration of independence. Both parties have already advised their deputies to be ready for a session of the regional parliament this weekend.
Prudent voices do not find it easy to be heard these days. Shortly before the ultimatum expired, the secretary general of the left-wing podemos party, pablo iglesias, called on both sides not to "add more fuel to the fire" but to extinguish the fire. The most sensible way, in his view, would be an orderly referendum in catalonia with the approval of the central government.
There is still hope in spain that there will be no open confrontation, imprisonment of top politicians, riots, division of society in catalonia and serious damage to the economy. But this hope is fading more and more quickly.
Rajoy is also under pressure from hardliners in his own ranks. Former head of government jose maria aznar has called on rajoy to finally solve the catalonia problem with a firm hand or else vacate his seat in the moncloa palace. On thursday, the heavyweight of the popular party immediately spoke out: until now, the separatists had interpreted many actions of the central government as weak. This must end now.
Madrid announces compulsory seizures against Catalonia