Catalonia versus the Spanish state — the battleground in the new year (Green Left Weekly)
This year will be the year of the showdown between Catalonia and the Spanish state over whether the Catalan people have a right to vote on self-determination in relation to Spain
Dick Nichols, Barcelona.- The year starts with the final battle lines already drawn in the contest between the right-wing Spanish-patriotic People’s Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the pro-independence Catalan government, headed by Carles Puigdemont.
The Rajoy government justifies its stance by falsely claiming the 1978 Spanish constitution prevents it from granting Catalonia a Scottish-style referendum. Puigdemont claims the Catalan administration is simply acting on democratic grounds, given that more than 80% of Catalans support their right to decide via referendum.
On January 11, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said about the Catalonian government’s 46-point list of complaints about Madrid’s treatment of the region: “I call them 45 points plus one, which is the referendum — we can’t negotiate about that.”
Catalan treasurer Oriol Junqueras, also leader of the centre-left Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), says Saenz de Santamaria had told him that “we will do everything possible to stop you holding a referendum”. He replied: “Well, we’ll do everything possible to hold it.”
The PP’s leader in Catalonia, Xavier Garcia Albiol, said on January 5 that no referendum would take place. The Spanish government and other anti-independence forces had learned from their failure to block the “participatory process” on Catalan statehood that was carried out by 37,000 volunteers on November 9, 2014 (known as 9N).
Garcia Albiol told Europa Press: “They fooled us once but they won’t get away with it again … What happened on 9N was an unprecedented case of improvisation. However, in 2017, the government and the constitutionalist parties have got things very clear…
“That’s why there won’t be any repeat of what we went through then. No one will be setting up illegal ballot boxes in public buildings.”
The heart of the approaching struggle is over the validity of a referendum declared and run unilaterally by Catalonia. How to ensure that it will not be a repeat of 9N, which was largely ignored by anti-independence Catalans with 2.3 million people participating as against 4.1 million in the September 27, 2015 Catalan regional election?
How, above all, to ensure that the referendum actually takes place in the face of a gamut of threats, including placing the Catalan police force under the direct command of the Spanish government?
A December GESOP poll indicated what a plausible result of a unilateral consultation would be: 64% of the electorate (around 3.4 million) would vote — more than in all previous referenda — and the vote for independence would be 79%.
The percentages of supporters of parties opposed to a unilateral referendum who would still take part if it happened would be: PP 12%; Citizens 29% and Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) 33%.
Seventy-five per cent of supporters of the left coalition Catalonia Yes We Can (CQSEP, which includes Spanish-wide left party Podemos and supports self-determination but not necessarily independence) would also take part.
The legitimacy of such a result would be unquestionable.
As a consequence, having rejected the negotiated referendum that would actually give it the best chance of stopping the Catalan rebellion, the Rajoy government must now use all possible means to stop a unilateral consultation.
In a taste of what is to come, the Spanish judiciary is prosecuting former Catalan premier Artur Mas and three of his ministers. They face charges of ignoring a Spanish Constitutional Court order to stop 9N from going ahead.
These charges are part of more than 400 investigations so far launched by Spanish courts and prosecutors against elected officials and local councils in Catalonia.