Friday, December 13, 2013

The bid for Catalan independence

Yesterday the president of the Catalan government, together with the leaders of five other political parties, announced they have reached an agreement to celebrate a referendum on the independence of Catalonia in about a year’s time. It has been a joyous moment as it answered a compromise agreed upon in the Catalan parliament to set the date and question before the end of 2013. The joy, however, is mostly about the fact politicians have been able to reach such an agreement, thus recovering some of the popular confidence. It must be said that in the past couple of years, politicians, and particularly the Catalan government, have been lagging behind the widespread and pervasive movement of the Catalan civil society in favour of a change on the current status of relationship with the Spanish central government, after repeated hostile actions, as perceived by the Catalan people in the recent past. Long standing grievances about political and economic autonomy peaked when a new statute voted by the Catalan people was curtailed by the Spanish central government on the grounds of not complying with a somewhat twisted interpretation of the Spanish constitution, back in 2010. Since then, the Catalan civil society has staged giant rallies that crowned last September 11th with a human chain encompassing the whole country from South to North, putting close to two million people in the roads, demanding the independence from Spain.

The question
A two-tier question: 1 Do you want Catalonia to become a state, and
2 In that case, would you want Catalonia become an independent state

it has been what the leaders of the political parties in favour of the referendum have been able to come up with.
It is the result of the efforts to comply with the parties whom being in favour of the referendum were not so keen about the claim for independence, preferring some sort of loose liaison with Spain, either a federal state, a confederal one or a free-associate state.
It’d be better a simpler one, like just the second part. However, the two-tier question has the virtue of being the result of an (wider) agreement. So there.

The answers
There could be up to seven (7) possible answers:
  1. Yes to the first part of the question and No to the second
  2. Yes to the first and Yes to the second
  3. No to the first and Yes to the second (What?)
  4. No to both
  5. Blank to the first and Yes to the second
  6. Yes to the first and blank to the second
  7. Blank and blank
(Blank and No to any would be just a NO)

The counting of votes could be a bit tricky. Let’s hope voters will be clearer and more consistent in their answers than the proposal.

The timing (the date)
The day is 9/11 in Spanish (or Catalan), which is like 11/9 backwards. Cute, as September 11th is the Catalan National Day.
It’s also the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, something to remember with all its symbolism.
At any rate, a bit to far into an unpredictable future, but far enough for wheeling and dealings, both in Spain and abroad.

The in-between
The announcement is directly related with the compromise of Esquerra Republicana to give support to Generalitat 2014 budget and thus guarantying the continuity of the Convergencia i Unió government up until the poll and beyond.
It may lead to a coalition government with ERC to watch over the execution of the budget proposals, particularly around the social matters like health, social services and education.
Otherwise the CiU government is in for a long and winding road full of

Blocks and hurdles
The central Spanish government, as was prompt to announce just a few hours after the Catalan agreement, is set on opposing the materialisation of the referendum with all its might and resources. Nothing new there. That will have to be fought in legal and political grounds, both in the parliament and in the press. Eventually in the streets as well. The main bulwark set up by the central Spanish government is

The Spanish constitution
The 35 years old text has been long overdue for revision and amendments. It was conceived and written under the watchful eye of the francoist military, and their footprint is noticeable in several parts of the text. Specifically in the articles related to the administrative organisation of the autonomous regions and others.
More than 60% of the current Spanish population did not have the opportunity to vote the constitution and may not feel bound by its prescriptions. The Catalan referendum may require a change in the constitution to be formally legal, although that would just be possible by political agreements.

The European elections
Programmed for the 25th of May, next year, will be the first electoral test for all the political parties both Spanish and Catalan. There are 54 seats in the European Parliament up for grabs. The possibility of an All Catalan joint candidacy under some common umbrella could represent a good test of the Catalan democratic compromise. Thus far, only ERC has proposed a head candidate, the Philosophy professor J. M. Terricabras (University of Girona), a rather articulate and likeable guy.

The aftermath (or the maths after) of the referendum.
That may require a lot of figuring. Not just the votes but the budget, the national debt, the international credit, the whole (money) shebang.
All those economists, so busy trying to explain to all of us what went wrong with the economic crisis, could well put themselves to work out how are we going to manage the situations should the Spanish government shuts off the flow of (that is, the return of our) money.
The only good thing is that, without the continue Spanish bleeding of the Catalan economy, we should be able to get up on our feet in a short time.

Madrid snafus: The Olympic games and Eurovegas
I mean, really, is that a sample of the credibility the Madrid establishment can muster?
Catalonia independence is not just from Spain, its people or its history. It’s the independence for that abstruse, oppressive, self-righteous, indecent and preposterous “Madrid” of high officials and bureaucrats, still set in the Franco’s era of totalitarism and inanity.

So there: be calm, and keep on truckin’ ... towards an independent Catalonia.


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