Balance of Power: A Full-Blooded Separatist Retreat in Catalonia

Spain's Rajoy Seeks Clarity From Catalan Government

Don’t let the cheers in the Catalan Parliament fool you. There’s been a full-blooded retreat from the separatists.

After rowdy demonstrations, a covert referendum (which drew a violent response from Spanish police) and vows to set up a new republic, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont blinked.

Many lawmakers gathered for a special session of the regional legislature were hoping to hear a declaration of independence. Instead, he put the process on hold to make another appeal for talks with the Spanish government. No deadline. No leverage. And Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s response was powerful: he started the process that could see Puigdemont’s administration stripped of its powers.  

Already last night cracks were opening up in the separatist coalition, suggesting a regional election may be necessary next year.

Perhaps Puigdemont had no real choice. The EU made it clear an independent Catalonia would be isolated. The region’s biggest companies were pulling out. And elite Spanish police officers were waiting to arrest him.

So Rajoy will be greeted as a winner when he addresses the national parliament later today. But with such deep rifts between Spain’s two power centers, the costs of his attritional campaign have been great.

Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

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