Saturday, August 6, 2011

When polls give meaning to feelings

Citizens' Voice Series

Jordi Coronas
Consultant on Graphic Arts & Communication
District Counsellor of Horta-Guinardó (Barcelona) since 2007
Blogger (on politics and communication)
Seven years ago I decided to get into Catalonia’s politics and subsequently joined a separatist party. Back then José Maria Aznar was President of Spain by absolute majority. The reasons for me were very clear. For a long time the Catalan government had been prudent and pragmatic, achieving its goals slowly and steadily, one step at a time. This heritage of tepid politics was a result of Spain’s difficult transition to democracy, for which the Catalans had to sacrifice a lot to help achieve it. However, I’m not writing to approve or disapprove of Catalonia’s past governments, because this article isn’t about what we have done right or wrong. Rather, it’s about what Spain has never been willing to sacrifice in order to satisfy the demands of the Catalan people.

This brings us back to why I got into politics: after Aznar won the presidency, he used his party’s absolutely majority to shamelessly work against Catalan interests. At the time, Catalonia’s fiscal deficit was more than any other European region would tolerate. It was time to take action, and I believed that we had to do so politically.

Seven years later this economic injustice has only gotten worse and will continue to do so as we set our eyes on 2014—the year that Spain will no longer receive cohesion funds from the EU. Catalonia will no longer be able to avoid the inevitable: Spain’s annual theft of 22,000,000,000€ (that’s 2,700€ per taxpayer) will have left the welfare state impossible to maintain. We will be forced to privatize basic services like healthcare and water and there’s nothing anyone will be able to do about it.

Right now, seven years later, we have witnessed that the Spanish government doesn’t respect the decisions of a democratically elected Catalan Parliament, who are not allowed to make laws on education, language, or immigration without first getting permission from the almighty Spanish Constitutional Court (the highest judicial body in Spain), as if it were the Inquisition in the middle of the Dark Ages.

Now, seven years later, the Spanish government isn’t willing to accept the wishes of the Catalan people, who voted in favor of a reform of the Catalan Estatut, which was then brought before the Constitutional Court and wiped clean of any provisions truly in favor of Catalan interests.

Today, seven years later, it seems that Aznar’s right wing will return to power in Spain to continue its fight for recentralization, putting all the political weight in Madrid. But, in any case, the Spanish Socialists have been in charge for nearly a decade and haven’t had the will to fight for positive change. A few months ago, it was revealed that a prosecutor for the Spanish Government used to be a member of Franco’s fascist party. Can anyone imagine a Nazi being a government official in Germany? It seems impossible, doesn’t it? Apparently it is possible in Spain, where an ex-fascist can forbid an unbinding referendum for the independence of Catalonia. Thankfully, the people won and we had our referendum in more than half of our towns, including Barcelona (Catalonia’s capital), and almost a million citizens voted.

However, we have achieved something that some once thought impossible. A recent opinion poll conducted by the Catalan government’s Center for Public Opinion, revealed what the Catalan people would vote, if a referendum on independence were held: 42.9% would vote yes; 28.2% would vote no; and 23.3% would abstain. According to the European Union’s guidelines for endorsing a referendum for independence—such as the one held in Kosovo—Catalonia would become an independent country. Currently, a 50% participation is required (most polls show that participation would cap out around 71.1%) and a minimum of 55% must vote yes. Polls indicate that 60.33% would vote yes, once you calculate the aforementioned 42.9% over the percentage of participation.

All we need now is the will of the people to push Catalonia politically in the direction of this referendum. The Spanish government refuses to acknowledge this conflict, while in Catalonia rational motives grow and slowly surpass the emotional resons for independence.

Ever since I began working in politics, I’ve assumed numerous roles at the municipal level. I have worked in urban planning, transportation, and more, but I have never forgotten why I got into politics. I did so because I want my country be free to choose its own destiny. No one should tell us if Catalan can be an official European language or how should we spend our taxes. That this be a majority sentiment in Catalonia is exactly what I started fighting for seven years ago.

Jordi Coronas

Consultant on Graphic Arts & Communication
District Counsellor of Horta-Guinardó (Barcelona) since 2007
Blogger (on politics and communication)

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