Why It’s Not Over in Catalonia

The plan to restore permanent stability to the rebel region now hinges on a knife-edge election.

By Ben Sills, Charles Penty and Esteban Duarte and cross-posted from Bloomberg

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has two piles of problems on his desk, an associate joked: those that have solved themselves and those that will solve themselves if they are given enough time.

There’s already evidence, though, that the would-be nation of Catalonia won’t just go away as the most troubling issue facing the country, its economy and Rajoy’s six-year premiership.

Rajoy held off demands for decisive action during weeks of high drama before seizing control of the region, which accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy. The plan to restore permanent stability now hinges on preventing the separatists winning a majority in the Catalan election Rajoy called for Dec. 21. Polls suggest the result will be on a knife edge.

“Do I think it’s a genius political strategy?” said Ken Dubin, a political scientist at ISDE law school in Madrid. “It’s classic Rajoy. It’s obvious that the independendistas overplayed a not particularly good hand, but does the Spanish government have any plan at all for if there’s a majority for independence?”

The brinkmanship culminated in judges jailing Catalonia’s separatist leaders and a legal, if not complete, victory for Rajoy. Spain was left intact and his authority was renewed as his opponents crumbled. But Rajoy is seeking to limit the fallout rather than addressing the root of the Catalan grievances over the right to determine their own nationhood that have plagued Spanish leaders intermittently for centuries.

The risk is that the fragile peace unravels after next month’s vote and Spain is engulfed in turmoil again

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