dijous, 13 de novembre de 2014

Catalonia – what next?

The short answer? Who knows?

The Spanish Prime Minister, Rajoy, can continue dismissing the poll as ‘unconstitutional’ for ever. And probably will.

He will be supported by his party, the Spanish press and most of Spain for doing so. He’ll also be supported by most outside countries who won’t want to get involved.

But some general points and indicators:

The Catalans aren’t going away. The Spanish Labour party (PSOE) has collapsed in Catalonia. Independence is the main alternative vote and philosophy here.

The pro-independence vote was higher in the consultative vote than for pro-indy parties at any previous election, even on a lower turn out.

Independence is gaining ground. It is also now supported clearly by three parties or blocs: Convergencia the Christian Democrat governing party in Catalonia of President Mas; ERC, the left wing republican party which Plaid Cymru is in alliance with in the EU and which is neck and neck in the polls with Mas; CUP, a smaller radical left wing party whose leader, David Fernàndez, had a historic embrace on the night of the vote.

Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones
That is, most parts of traditional politics positions now support independence. It’s a broad movement.

More difficult for Rajoy and Spain is that the people going out to vote -some for the first time ever, or in years, were an amazing cross section.

These are not hot heads. In Catalonia chemists, doctors, accountants, bank workers support independence. Seeing the queues of middle class, retired women in pearls vote in the Eixemple district in Barcelona was an eye opener. This is Rhiwbina in Cardiff, Sketty in Swansea, Tregarth in Bangor voting for independence. The Spanish are still in denial about this.

As Amadeu Abril, a Catalan born in 1961 told me, the people who still live in the shadow of Franco and who shunned politics their whole life, voted yes and feel empowered.

“Following the Civil War our own family made an unofficial vow never to get involved in politics – it was too dangerous. That time has now passed. A tipping point has now been passed not only in our family but among thousands across Catalonia.”

Amadeu, was one of the founders of the Catalan domain .cat and an inspiration and great support when I was part of the dotCYMRU campaign. 
Amadeu Abril with Siôn Jobbins

The Catalans are organised. Rajoy tried to ban the vote without actually banning it. He made things very awkward but the Catalans were stronger and cleverer. They’re now stronger still.

Scotland – the Catalans have learnt from Scotland’s ‘mistakes’. They’ve noted the generational gap, the older women voters, pensions, the immigrant vote. Like the Scots, Catalans have also noted the importance of the economic argument. Books and articles by respected economists such as Elisenda Paluzie sell well and set out clearly how Catalonia is more than able to flourish as an independent state and take care of its pensions.

Unilateral Declaration of Independence?

Spain will never allow Catalonia to hold a ‘legal’ referendum on independence.

The talk here is of fielding a pro-independence slate at the next Catalan elections. Whilst this may sound good it will be difficult. ERC and CUP will be suspicious of giving Mas a free run. Esquerra (ERC) who were fighting in the Civil War, will feel they are being denied the opportunity to become the party of government. However there is talk that the citizens initiatives which organised the million+ march, the Via Catalana and who staffed the polling booths on Sunday, may force this on the parties.

In the event of a pro -independence slate with a timetable for independence, a Unilateral Declaration of Independence could be called. Taxes paid to Madrid will be paid to Barcelona.

Here it is worth noting that taxes and good governance are totally central to the independence debate. The Spanish press make much of the meaness of Catalans in not wanting to support poor people in other parts of Spain. In Spain, Catalans are seen as mean and mean-spirited. From my conversations with Catalans, they aren’t so much against sharing their wealth as against their own country being unable to access the money it creates to invest in its own infrastructure too – new trans-European rail links, rail links with the docks in Barcelona etc. There is also deep mistrust of the corruption at the heart of the Spanish state. The Catalans don’t trust Madrid with their money.

If UDI is declared then it’s anyone’s guess what happens next. Catalonia may hold another referendum to confirm the decision and begin making it’s case internationally.

Will Spain try and send in troops or the armed police (Guardia Civil) to win back power? This is stil an outliner idea in a way the Scottish scenario never was. Would Europe allow Spain to intimidate a peaceful population?

Will the EU kick the Catalans out of the EU? That’s the threat, but the Catalans could continue to trade with the EU and could become a cause celebre for many disparate people and not only right wing Eurosceptics but also libertarians, left wingers, Greens and democrats in general. It would be a huge strain in the European Union.

My personal view is that Spain is cack-handed enough to try and intimidate the Catalans militarily, or at least threaten too. I don’t think the EU has either the leadership or strength to assert its will, even if it knew what that will actually is.

In the end it will come down to a battle of wills and calling Spain’s bluff. Catalonia will only stay a part of Spain if Spain turns it’s back in democracy. A democratic Spain will, sooner or later, have to recognise an independent Catalonia or not be a democracy.

by Siôn Jobbins

Published at Daily_Wales

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