Puigdemont made a symbolic declaration of independence last Tuesday, only to suspend it seconds later and call for negotiations with Madrid on the region’s future.
Spain’s Rajoy would probably call a snap regional election after activating Article 155 of the constitution that would allow him to sack the Catalan regional government.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont made only a symbolic declaration, claiming a mandate to launch secession but suspending any formal steps to that end.
European leaders have either taken a neutral stance, relegating the conflict to an internal matter for Spain to resolve, or have offered support to the Spanish government.
The EU has shown no interest in an independent Catalonia, despite an appeal by Puigdemont for Brussels to mediate in the crisis.
In Madrid, some socialists have suggested Basque could serve as a model for a compromise that would defuse Spain’s biggest political crisis since a failed coup in 1981.
Spanish PM Rajoy has remained vague on whether he would use article 155, the nuclear option of the constitution which enables him to sack the regional government.
Late Tuesday, Catalonia’s leader, Carles Puigdemont, said that the region will declare independence in a matter of days.
Police preventing people from voting and firing rubber bullets at protesters, and injuring up to 900, has done deep damage to Spain’s international credibility.
The referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades.
The dispute has plunged Spain into one of its biggest political crises since the restoration of democracy in the 1970s after decades of military dictatorship.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said he had contingency plans in place to ensure the vote would go ahead, pushing the country closer to political crisis.
Police efforts to stop the referendum have intensified in recent days as the wealthy northeastern region shows no signs of halting it.
Catalonia’s top court on Friday issued a warning to seven newspapers not to publish campaign notices for the referendum, a court spokesperson said.
City police said that around one million people took part in the police, one of the highest turn-outs in recent years.
Madrid’s conservative government has said it will block any further attempt to hold a referendum and has blocked previous secessionist challenges.
Previous secessionist challenges in Catalonia were blocked by Spain’s conservative government and the Constitutional Court.