The Spanish government has just committed an error, with its eye on the referendum of 1st October, by publicly recognising that it cannot apply article 155 of the Constitution — the one in which it claimed it had capacity to suspend the Catalan autonomy — for "time and legal" reasons.
Put in simple language, it goes without saying that the legal deadlines have passed to deal with a proposal of this nature in the Senate, and it should strongly reinforce the position of the Constitutional Court and give it reason in the face of a political initiative defended by the PP and Ciudadanos — not like the PSOE and Podemos — as well as certain media groups — with Juan Luis Cebrián (editor-in-chief of El País) and Francisco Maruhenda (editor of La Razón) at the head, with their respective newspapers — but that many lawyers questioned.
It is very clear that the Spanish government has played its cards on three elements that it did not control: that the Catalan executive of president Carles Puigdemont would renounce summoning the referendum — a situation that has never been feasible and even less so now, with only two weeks before signing the decree to call the '1-O' in agreement with the vice-president, Oriol Junqueras; that there would be an internal division within the Catalan government — which hasn't happened despite the daily friction between the PDeCAT and Republican Left; and finally, that the delusions of the CUP were not only awkward but also corrosive. But on this last point, nothing has been that bad despite the irritation among many members of the Catalan government.
Under these circumstances, the executive of Mariano Rajoy, although it has all the legal arsenal ready, will have to, like it or not, adopt a political decision. The courts, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the different legal bodies are already doing their jobs, with speed and distinction, as always. But the referendum of 1st October paces along with a firm step, with no strong action from the Spanish government. And this is where the problem arises between giving satisfaction to its hooligans, yet with international public opinion ending up being shocked. The truth is that the Spanish state is also improvising and that the toughness is not so clear, despite all the abrupt and intolerant gestures when playing to the gallery.