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.

If Mr Rajoy thought that cracking heads would put a stop to secessionism, he could not have been more wrong. He has only created a stand-off that has energised his enemies and shocked his friends (see article). On October 3rd Catalonia, one of Spain’s richest regions, was paralysed by a protest strike. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have marched to express their…Continue reading

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