Catalonia crisis: Is Spain set to seize control?

– The independence referendum in Catalonia appears to have put the region on a path to secession from Spain. But will that happen?

– Catalonia’s 7.5 million people are sharply polarised. At the weekend a vast pro-unity rally took place in Barcelona, rivalling the many pro-independence rallies the city has seen.

– Here we look at the possible next moves in the bitter standoff.

Will Catalonia announce independence?

Under Catalan law – not recognised by Spain – the regional parliament can issue the formal declaration of Catalan independence within two days of the referendum results being announced.

The final results from the 1 October referendum in the wealthy north-eastern region suggested 90% of the 2.3 million people who voted backed independence. Turnout was 43%.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is expected to “take the referendum results to the parliament” on Tuesday and give a speech.

But a prominent ally of Mr Puigdemont, Marta Pascal, told that BBC that he would make “a symbolic statement” in the Catalan parliament – not a unilateral independence declaration.

The Catalan parliament could still vote for independence. This would start a months-long divorce process with Spain before any final act of separation.

The Spanish government will have to decide how best to oppose such moves.

Is Spain set to seize control of Catalonia?

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sent an extra 4,000 national police to Catalonia ahead of the referendum – a vote declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. They will stay there while the crisis continues.

There is huge bitterness after Spanish police lashed out at ordinary voters, hitting them with batons and dragging them away from polling stations.

The images probably damaged Spain’s image internationally and boosted support for the Catalan independence movement.

They also showed Madrid’s determination to stand firm against Catalan independence. So a further crackdown cannot be ruled out.

Spain PM Rajoy/Catalan leader Puigdemont

Catalonia has a high degree of autonomy from Spain. But Section 155 of Spain’s 1978 constitution allows Madrid to impose direct rule in a crisis.

Under such circumstances, it says the Spanish government may “issue instructions to all the authorities of the self-governing communities” such as Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia – meaning direct rule from Madrid.

Another option for Madrid is to call new regional elections, which could at least delay the independence drive.

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