The last time we checked in on the Catalonian independence movement things weren’t looking good for the rebel forces. The central government in Madrid had dissolved their government, issued arrest warrants for former elected leaders and their regional president, Carles Puigdemont, was on the lam in Belgium. Further, Madrid had scheduled snap elections to replace the upstarts, secure in the knowledge that they had cracked the whip enough to bring the people to their senses and lead them to elect some sensible, centrist leaders who would forget all of this independence nonsense.

Well… that didn’t work out very well at all. The elections were held this week and the people once again voted the independence parties back into power. (Daily Caller)

The Catalonian independence movement looks set to secure a big victory in a key election for the region’s push to secede from Spain.

The Spanish government called a snap parliamentary election in the region after Catalonian leaders held a banned independence referendum. Left-wing parties ERC and CUP are on track to win 70 seats, an absolute majority in the 135-member parliament. Centrist pro-unity party Ciudadanos received the most votes, but fell short of being able to form an administration.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy expected to increase Madrid’s control and shut down any attempts to break away from the country. The surprising outcome could now instead legitimize the referendum.

Speaking from exile, Puigdemont declared the Spanish state defeated, asserting that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “has received a slap in the face from Catalonia.”

What comes next is anybody’s guess, but it’s extremely unlikely to be the smooth transition back to the old version of normality which Rajoy was anticipating. Up until now, Madrid has been able to keep a lid on the situation with mostly non-violent, constitutional means. There were legal provisions for dissolving the regional government and snap elections are always an option under their parliamentary system. Yes, they had to beat a few people up during the protests around the time of the independence referendum, but they’ve mostly avoided looking like Madrid is really pushing a hobnail boot down on the throats of the Catalan people.

Also, there was some confusion surrounding the referendum, particularly in terms of the low turnout. That gave them cover to claim that it wasn’t really a populist movement. But what now? Normal elections have been held and the same parties they just smacked down were voted back into power. If they turn around and hold another referendum and it comes out the same, Rajoy will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. If the independence movement is widely viewed as being legitimate and they have to bring in the stormtroopers to get Catalonia under control he comes off looking like a tyrant. If anyone among the protesters winds up dead they will immediately become martyrs.

Does this turn of events give Puigdemont the confidence to simply return to Spain and carry the Catalan banner? He’s still facing arrest, a trial and up to 30 years in prison if he shows up. But tossing him in prison simply adds to Rajoy’s public relations problem. Stock up on popcorn and buckle your seatbelts. This ride is apparently far from over.