Catalan President Carles Puigdemont (C) and other Catalan regional government members attend a demonstration organised by Catalan pro-independence movements on Saturday. Photo: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

Following Catalonia’s independence referendum and a symbolic declaration of independence, the Spanish government began the procedure to trigger Article 155 on Saturday. Under the statute, authorities expect to remove local Catalan officials from office, and impose direct rule from Madrid.

The move was widely expected, but brings with it uncertainty as it further inflames anti-Madrid sentiment in the autonomous region. Almost half a million supporters of independence marched on the streets of Barcelona after the Rajoy administration’s Saturday announcement. Many who were previously opposed to outright independence, by some accounts the majority, were also supportive of a greater degree of autonomy.

The move to impose direct rule has the potential to crystalize opposition to Madrid.

Political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group writes Monday that the Catalan government is unlikely to immediately comply with measures taken under article 155, likely leading to sustained unrest and disruption to the functioning of the local government. This will weigh on the economic outlook for the region and Spain more broadly.

New elections are unlikely to resolve any of this, as Madrid’s moves only push more people to support pro-independence candidates.