Spain and the Catalonian issue

“It’s time for Independence,” representatives of the ‘September 11th’ demonstration claimed. Such acts take place as if they were a familiar party, very flexible, very Mediterranean and well organized.

This demonstration is the starting point in a tight work schedule for the next thirty marches up until November 10, when they will hold a referendum (which has been named “consultation”) on independence and which should precipitate the declaration of the new Catalonian state.

The Spanish government maintained its initial position regarding the movement in favour of the consultation-referendum: according to the Constitution, such referendum is illegal and will not be hold.

“I neither can nor want to do it,” PM Mariano Rajoy repeats.

However, in the next days the Catalonian parliament will pass a Consultation Law in order to enable the referendum, while the Spanish government will ask for its cancellation before the Constitutional Court. Thereupon, the Catalonian government faces the risk of calling a referendum that would subsequently be suspended by the Spanish government.

A failure of this process will lead to a feeling of frustration in most of the Catalonian society, which was promised independence as the gateway to solving all their eternal problems –especially that of leaving behind the economic crisis.

Throughout the process, many impossible promises have been accumulated, as well as unlikely statements and the silence and indifference of the Spanish government. There has also been an increasing mobilization in the rest of the country claiming that Catalonia is Spain and that a declaration of independence is selfish and affects all the Spanish people, who should also decide and be consulted.

The socialist proposal is reforming the Constitution so as to open a line of negotiation with the Catalonian government and thus finding a framework of understanding. The Popular Party (which is in now governing with an absolute majority) says that maybe, but not with the threat of an illegal referendum.

The less eager analysts say that the way out of such a maze is the Catalonian government’s legal decision to call early elections (the second ones in barely 4 years) with the sovereign-independent storyline as the heart of the debate. They will probably solve nothing, but it means making use of a democratic tool: the popular vote.

Others think that the solution would be a revision and reform of the current Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia –the second in the Spanish democracy, whose bumpy management is the genesis of today’s process. A new Statute, accepted and agreed, would include a referendum in the region and would even open the door for the constitutional reform proposed by the socialists. Such reform might even be simultaneous and parallel to the new Statute.

In short, the Spanish people –including the Catalonians- face a second transition era so as to recompose their framework of coexistence. And they do it with a state of opinion more broken and sceptical than 40 years ago -when the country was able to successfully exit an authoritarian system and entered a democratic and modern one.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.

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