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When The Economist begins to type sense, one really knows how far off Rajoy actually is.

It is not too late to stop the break-up of Spain

WHEN a democracy sends riot police to beat old ladies over the head with batons and stop them voting, something has gone badly wrong. Catalans say that almost 900 people were hurt by police in the referendum for independence on October 1st. Whatever the provocation from Catalan leaders in staging an unconstitutional poll, the reaction of Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, has thrown Spain into its worst constitutional crisis since an attempted coup in 1981.

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Will Mr Puigdemont declare independence? That would be reckless and irresponsible but, if he does, Mr Rajoy should resist the temptation to arrest Catalan leaders and, for the time being, avoid using his power to suspend regional rule. Just now, either measure would only compound his mistakes.

Only a negotiation can restore calm and it should start immediately. Even now most Catalans can probably still be won over with the offer of greater autonomy, including the power to raise and keep more of their own taxes, more protection for the Catalan language and some kind of recognition of the Catalans as a "nation". Mr Rajoy might even take up the opposition Socialists' idea of turning Spain into a federal state.

Any settlement, though, must include the option of a referendum on independence. Separation would be a wrenching change for Catalonia and the rest of Spain, so should not be done lightly. A majority of Catalans eligible to vote should be the minimum threshold for independence. A follow-up vote on the terms of a separation might be wise, too.

by Bjinse on Thu Oct 5th, 2017 at 07:37:18 PM EST

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