The king of Spain, Felipe VI, has tonight said that the Catalan government is "outside the law and democracy".
The Spanish head of state made the comment in a speech to the Spanish people, a speech with no precedent until the one given by his father, Juan Carlos I, on the night of 23rd February 1981 after an attempted coup d'état. This time, the son was speaking about the self-determination referendum held in Catalonia last Sunday.
The king had strong words for the Catalan executive, accusing them of an "attempt to appropriate the institutions of Catalonia" as a consequence of a string of decisions that "have systematically violated the laws, demonstrating an inadmissible disloyalty to the powers of the state". This has led, in his opinion, to a "fractured and confrontational Catalan society, scorning the ties of affection and solidarity which have united them and will unite them" and putting at risk "the economic and social stability of all Spain" with their "irresponsible behaviour" and a "situation of extreme gravity".
He made no reference to the more than 800 people injured by police actions on Sunday, condemned by the international press and the motive for today's standstill in Catalonia. Nor did he make a call for dialogue, which could mean that he currently considers this possibility a dead end.
During his remarks, therefore, the king had aligned himself with the thesis of Mariano Rajoy's Spanish government, opening the way to the measures that could be taken after a potential unilateral declaration of independence, which are speculated to include the application of article 155 of the Constitution which would remove Catalonia's autonomy or the banning from public office of officials like Catalan president Puigdemont. "It's the responsibility of the legitimate powers of the state to maintain in force the rule of law and self-government based on the [Spanish] Constitution and the [Catalan] Statute of Autonomy", he said, in the face of this attempt "the break the unity of Spain and national sovereignty". The state "offers paths for anybody to be able to defend their ideas", he added.
Near the end, Felipe VI gave a message of calm to Catalan citizens, saying that among them there is also "much worry... about the behaviour of the regional authorities". To those who oppose independence, he said they have "all the support and solidarity of the rest of Spain" as well as the "absolute guarantee of the rule of law".
To the citizens of the rest of the state, he addressed a message of "tranquillity, calm and hope", saying that on the "desired" path of coexistence, "Catalonia will be there too". "They're difficult moments, but we'll overcome them," he said. "We feel proud of what we are."
The staging had the monarch behind his desk with a few papers carrying his speech and a laptop to his right, a novelty in this kind of message from the Royal household. Behind him was a Spanish flag, with the folds falling so that the four red bars on yellow in the shield (which is now the flag of Catalonia) were clearly visible. Also behind him was a large portrait of a mounted knight. Also unusual was the amount of gesticulation from the king, something unusual in his appearances.