WHAT was supposed to be a simple election for the local parliament in Catalonia was in reality a massive test for the Spanish government and the results with the highest turnout ever in the region can only cause problems.
With a population of 7.5 million, of which 5.5 million are eligible to vote, the election held on September 27 was not only important to Catalonia but will have far-reaching effects on Spain itself.
The pro-independence parties of Junts pel Si of Artur Mas and the smaller left-wing CUP have won 72 seats out of 135 and despite the fact that they have only received 1.9 million votes out of the four million cast, consider that this gives them an absolute mandate to declare independence from Spain.
The central government however has made it clear from the outset that it intends to fight any declaration of independence which it considers illegal through the courts.
As has previously been reported, it seems that all parties outside of Catalonia are opposed to secession; the EU has indicated that Catalonia would not be granted immediate membership, would have to leave the Eurozone and would have to apply for membership of Schengen.
Both Angela Merkel and David Cameron have publicly endorsed the Spanish government’s stance and it is alleged that should independence go through then all those in the new country would lose their rights to Spanish citizenship.
The pro-independence response is that within 18 months, Catalonia would be able to declare independence and would have all of the necessary infrastructure in place including currency and an army and they declare, under Spanish law, all those currently enjoying Spanish citizenship would still be able to hold Spanish passports.
In addition, as independent Catalonia would no longer recognise the Spanish national debt, its own financial situation would be very strong especially with the wealth created by Barcelona.
It does seem something of a pipe-dream but the Spanish elections have to be held by the end of 2015, and it is a brave government that completely ignores so many votes which could easily be lost if it becomes too belligerent.
Perhaps both sides will now consider a compromise which would allow for a form of recognised referendum on independence to take place at some time in the future.