Of three courts which have now heard from the former First Minister of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, and his former regional ministers, or from Speaker Carme Forcadell and the former members of her Speaker's Committee in some way—the National High Court and the Supreme Court in Madrid, for the first pre-trial hearings of the initial investigative stage of the Spanish criminal process, and the duty judge in Brussels, for the first stage of the European Arrest Warrant procedure—two have now ruled the former ministers may remain free on bail and one, the National High Court in Madrid, has jailed the nine men and women that went before it on remand.
In the two cases where bail has been granted, it is for procedural reasons only, for now, and not a judgement on the accusations themselves: the Supreme Court allowed a one-week delay in order for defence lawyers to better prepare, and the judge in Brussels heard arguments on Sunday only to consider what should happen while a decision is made on the execution (or not) of the European Arrest Warrants issued by the judge in Madrid on Friday. That decision might be made within the next two weeks or might not be resolved until after Christmas. The Supreme Court in Madrid will hold its first proper hearing on the matter, for Speaker Forcadell and her former committee members, this Thursday.
So two bail decisions, for procedural reasons, and one remand decision, from the judge in Madrid who has considered the substantive accusations, at least at this first step of the first stage of the criminal process for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds (and, in the case of Mr. Puigdemont and his colleagues in Brussels now, the additional crimes of abuse of authority and contempt of court). In the meantime, the election process for the December 21 regional ballot gets underway.
The election campaign proper will not begin until December 5 but some key decisions must be made by parties before then. If any wish to run as a coalition, for example—like the separatist Junts Pel Sí ("Together For Yes") last time, a pro-independence combination of Catalan conservatives and Catalan Republican Left (Esquerra, ERC)—they only have until tomorrow, November 7, to register that new coalition with election authorities. This explains Mr. Puigdemont's tweet from Brussels on Saturday calling for another joint list. Esquerra, though, spies an opportunity and wishes to broaden the list of parties—with Esquerra in the lead, of course—to include the radical-left CUP and even the Catalan branch of Podemos.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has often been regarded as a master of political timing, supremely patient while his enemies get themselves into trouble and fade away. What looked like a well-played move in the hours after the declaration of independence on October 27—calling a snap election to steal the discourse of democracy from Catalan separatists, instead of the six-month cooling-off period originally envisioned for the suspension of home rule—might now prove to be an extremely risky gamble. While separatist parties have not yet cleared the rhetorical hurdle of taking part in regional elections having already declared themselves to be a new independent republic, it will not take them much longer.
If a seven-week election campaign (the official one is only two weeks)—with nine former regional ministers in jail on remand (Spanish electoral law does not prevent them from being candidates from prison, they have not been convicted and sentenced yet) and Mr. Puigdemont stirring up trouble in the heart of Europe—leads to the victory of a new separatist front in Catalonia—even if "victory" only means holding on to their current position or improving it by a couple of seats—then Mr. Rajoy will have a very big problem indeed on his hands by Christmas.