Rajoy Hostage to Catalonia as Vote Shows Rifts

(Bloomberg) -- Mariano Rajoy has placed his bets. Tonight he finds out which way the cards will fall in Catalonia.

The Spanish prime minister wagered that chaos unleashed by October’s push for independence would persuade moderate Catalans to abandon the separatists. The risk is that his strong-arm tactics – and the violent crackdown on the region’s illegal referendum – will sustain support for those pushing to break away from Spain.

The separatist movement is limping into today’s vote. The region’s ousted president, Carles Puigdemont, is campaigning from exile in Brussels, his former deputy Oriol Junqueras is in jail in Madrid and their alliance has collapsed due to the rifts opened up by their shambolic and ineffective declaration of independence.

Yet polls suggest they could still cling on to their parliamentary majority, perhaps by a single seat.

That result would usher in a new, chronic phase of the crisis: Rajoy has shown he has the legal weapons to contain the separatists, but not to dent their support.

Even if the separatists fall short, opposition parties are divided. So there’s no clear way forward for the unhappy region or Spain as a whole. That question mark will hang over the economic recovery.

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Rajoy Hostage to Catalonia as Vote Shows Rifts

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Rajoy Hostage to Catalonia as Vote Shows Rifts

To contact the author of this story: Ben Sills in Madrid at bsills@bloomberg.net.

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