Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rajoy refuses to negotiate self-determination referendum after November 9's massive symbolic vote

The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, downplayed November 9's participatory process and he totally rejected the opportunity to negotiate the organisation of a mutually-agreed self-determination referendum for Catalonia. On Wednesday, Rajoy spoke in public for the first time after Sunday's massive symbolic vote on independence, when 81% of the 2.3 million participants supported separation from Spain. 
He stressed that pro-independence supporters were a minority while "70% of Catalans did not vote", exaggerating the abstention figures, mixing the electoral census and the total population and particularly ignoring the difficult context and conditions of the symbolic vote, which included penal prosecution threats sent on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 
He also justified the Spanish Government's actions during the last few days and stated that the Public Prosecutors' Office, which is about to file a complaint against the Catalan President, is acting independently, although its boss is directly appointed by the Spanish Government and reports to the Spanish Justice Minister. Furthermore, Rajoy totally refused to begin "discussing about sovereignty and the unity of Spain", rejecting any type of negotiation for a mutually-agreed independence referendum. Besides, Rajoy did not make any political offer to Catalan citizens and he only suggested the possibility of Catalan representatives proposing a Constitutional Reform, which his party would immediately reject, he added. 
Therefore, according to Rajoy's own words, the self-determination demands from a significant part of Catalonia's society only find in Madrid a wall to crash against and nothing else. And this has been the story of the last few years. 


All parties in Catalonia strongly criticise Rajoy's words
All the parties in Catalonia have been extremely disappointed by Rajoy's words, including pro-Spanish unity forces, except of course the PP's Catalan branch. Most of them warned Rajoy about using the Courts to solve a political problem was not the solution. The governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU urged Rajoy to make a political proposal to Catalonia. The left-wing pro-self-determination parties (ERC, ICV-EUiA and CUP) replied that negotiating is useless, except the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) that considered Rajoy "was not aware of the problem's real dimension" and insisted in negotiating. Only the Spanish nationalist and populist party Ciutadans criticised Rajoy for not having stopped the vote from happening by using all the means possible, in line with the statements made by ultra nationalist and extreme-right parties and organisations.

The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) once again proposed Constitutional Reform, although once more it did not give details about it. However, on previous occasions the PSOE explained that such a reform will not recognise Catalonia's right to self-determination, nor its nationhood status. The PSOE leader asked for a joint meeting between Rajoy, Mas and him to talk about the Constitutional Reform.

The Spanish PM insists that pro-independence people are "a minority in Catalonia"
Rajoy considered November 9's non-binding vote to be "a deep failure of the pro-independence project", since "after all the noise, mobilisation and public money spent", "2 out of every 3 Catalans did not bother to participate in it". "When the pro-independence movement wanted to show their strength, they have showed their weakness", he stated, despite the symbolic vote having gathered the attention of the world's main media and having allowed citizens to give their opinion on Catalonia's independence from Spain for the first time in history in an official vote, after civil wars, dictatorships, military attacks, and centuries of political and cultural repression.

When he assessed November 9's citizen participation process, Rajoy intentionally ignored the Spanish Government's threats and obstacles (including penal prosecution), he dishonestly played with turnout, abstention, total population and electoral census figures, and he assumed that all the Catalans who did not participate in the symbolic vote were against self-determination. On top of this, despite the Spanish Government having repeated over the last few days that November 9's vote had "no democratic validity", Rajoy was basing his statement on Sunday's figures.

Rajoy mixed Catalonia's total population (7.5 million), symbolic vote's census (6.3million) and the census of a regular electoral process (5.4 million) on many occasions, downplaying the turnout (2.3 million) and always rounding down participation figures, saying they were "30%" or "less than a third", instead of the actual 36%. In addition, he ignored the existence of a structural abstention, which accounts for some 25-20% of the electoral census in Catalonia. He also assumed that all of those who did not vote on Sunday do not care about self-determination and that they would all vote against independence.

The Spanish PM slams the door on a mutually-agreed independence referendum
Furthermore, after the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, had sent him an offer to set up permanent dialogue to talk about manifold pending issues, including the self-determination demands, Rajoy strongly criticised Mas for pretending to "impose" dialogue about "an illegal defiance". "We will never discuss sovereignty and the unity of Spain", he emphasised, closing the door – once again – to a mutually-agreed self-determination referendum. Rajoy has been doing this for the last two years, following a 'no-to-everything' strategy regarding self-determination demands. Mas "will find the same answer than always" regarding self-determination, he said, while he added that November 9's vote does not grant Catalan representatives "any political leverage", since it is "an illegal act". No Court has stated that November 9's vote was "illegal"; the Constitutional Court temporarily banned its organisation while waiting to reach a definitive decision – which has not come yet – and explicitly refused to issue a warning to the Catalan President telling him to stop the vote, as the Spanish Government had suggested.

Besides, the Spanish PM said he was open to talking about any other subject with Mas, as the Catalan President also requested of him on Tuesday. Despite such words, Rajoy has still not answered any of the 23 proposals on specific policy areas, such as unemployment, vocational training and healthcare, which the Catalan President sent him in July.

Rajoy doesn't propose anything for Catalonia, except for Constitutional Reform which he blocks
In addition, the Spanish PM did not offer any political solution for Catalonia's situation and the demands peacefully expressed by a wide part of Catalan citizens. On top of this, Rajoy cynically suggested that Catalan representatives propose a Constitutional Reform if they want a self-determination vote, while immediately adding that the People's Party (PP) will never accept such a reform. The PP leader already said that in April, when the Spanish Parliament rejected the Catalan Parliament's motion to transfer the powers to organise a legal referendum on self-determination. Therefore, Rajoy is pointing again towards a dead end as the only destination for the demands of the 80% majority of Catalan who voted in the last Catalan elections, held in November 2012.

However, several legal experts have argued that there is no need to reform the Spanish Constitution for allowing a self-determination vote in Catalonia. Nevertheless, in the case of having to reform the main law, Catalans are a clear minority within Sp
ain, as they only represent 16% of the entire population. Therefore, even if the whole of Catalonia wanted independence – which is not the case since polls show some 50% support, Catalans would be never able to modify the Constitution by themselves, without the support from a large part of Spain. However, Spanish nationalists and Madrid-based establishment are totally blocking any reform that would explicitly recognise the right of Catalans to self-determination. They ignored that Canada's Constitution was neither recognising self-determination and Quebec's citizens were allowed to vote, as the Scots also did two months ago, despite no law explicitly recognised their right of doing so.

Furthermore, in the case of Spain, those blocking the vote by using the Constitution ignore the fact that the Constitutional pact was based in 1978 on the future recognition of Catalonia's nationhood and the protection and promotion of Catalan language, which has not been the case. On top of this, only the heirs of Franco's regime were back then rejecting Catalonia's right to self-determination, since the PSOE, the Communist party and the Catalan and Basque nationalists were accepting it. If such a right was not included in the Constitution was to reach a consensus with the remains of Franco's dictatorship and to guarantee the development of the democratic transition.

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