Saturday, November 22, 2014

Better together? Seven big Noes from Spain to Catalonia




They will be topped by legal prosecution and criminal charges against the President of Catalonia because of the symbolic independence vote

This past 9 November, more than 2.3M Catalan citizens went to the polling stations to participate in a symbolic vote on independence. They went to vote despite the obstacles placed in front of them and the threats formulated by the Spanish government and state judicial bodies. This vote was not a referendum like in Scotland, as many would have wished, precisely because the Spanish government decided not to follow the democratic example of David Cameron. However, the international media, perceiving the importance of the vote, reported extensively on the event.

Faced with 2.3M citizens sending a message in a pacific and peaceful way through their vote, as done in the rest of the democratic world, any government would at least take note and pay attention. Politicians are there to see what is going on, comprehend and discuss. However, the Spanish government led by Mr Rajoy, merely qualified the vote as an anti-democratic and useless farce while demeaning it for its participation (one in three Catalans), Mr Rajoy having himself an absolute majority with an even smaller proportion of Spanish voters.

The problem is that for some time now the Spanish government has been refusing to recognise that it has a serious political problem in Catalonia. This problem cannot be dealt with by ignoring it, as done initially, or through sentencing and judicial prosecutions as is being done now. Political problems require political solutions, in Catalonia, Scotland, and everywhere else. There are many who criticise the inflexible position of the Rajoy’s Popular Party, who’s only strategy is to let time pass to see if they are lucky and problems disappear by solving themselves.

From No to No

The negation of the 9 November vote is just one more of a long list of negations. In recent times, the first and most outrageous one, in terms of its consequences, was the sentence of the Spanish Constitutional Court against the Statute of Catalonia in June 2010. Next come the refusal of Rajoy to negotiate a new fiscal agreement (September 2012), the annulment of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Catalan Parliament (March 2014), the refusal to transfer the competences of holding a referendum to Catalonia (April 2014), the suspension of the non-binding consultation law and the decree calling for the 9 November vote (September 2014) and the extension of this suspension to the symbolic participatory process (November 2014).

It is obvious that the attitude of the Spanish government and the state organisms is not conducive to convincing Catalans of continuing to form part of Spain. To the contrary, the number of pro-independence voters has grown continuously, even among immigrant communities and more politically apathetic groups. As a seduction strategy it is unprecedented and unusual to say the least and contrasts starkly with the UK’s Better Together campaign. This culminates with another bridge-burning decision: the State Prosecutor’s will file a complaint and seek criminal charges against President Mas, the Vice-President and the Minister of Education.

This day, 39 years ago, marks the death of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco, great enemy of liberty, democracy, and also of Catalonia. Faced with the political challenge brought forth by Catalonia, Spain has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that these four decades have been sufficient to consolidate a mature democracy. Unfortunately, it seems that this is not the path that has been chosen.

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