Independence for Catalonia?

Catalonia is a politically divided nation whose future as an independent State is not clear. In today’s elections, with a record breaking percentage of participation, the separatist electoral coalition, JuntsPelSí, Together For Yes, has obtained 62 seats in the parliament, short of 6 seats to achieve a majority. This coalition, which presents itself as a civic platform, is made up by 3 main components:

1. CDC, the centre-right nationalist party that dominated Catalan politics for more than 2 decades, crippled by serious cases of financial and political corruption. CDC’s stance about the national question has evolved over the last 7 years from supporting an enhanced Statute of Autonomy that recognises Catalonia as a nation within the Spanish State to demanding total independence. This shift has been provoked by a combination of circumstances, including the rejection by the Constitutional Court, dominated by the Spanish right-wing Popular Party, of important sections of the enhanced 2006 Statute of Autonomy that had been passed in the Spanish Parliament, the Catalan Parliament and the Catalan people in a referendum. As CDC embraced independence, their Catalan Cristian Democrats allies, UDC, left the long term coalition they had nurtured together for more than 3 decades.

2. The left-wing ERC, founded in 1931, traditionally much more radical than CDC in terms of national aspirations, although relatively pragmatic as well, as they participated in a coalition government in Catalonia with non-independentist parties between 2003 and 2010 that managed to get approved the 2006 enhanced Statute of Autonomy.

3. The National Assembly of Catalonia, an organisation which brings together the grassroots of the hyperactive and successful independence movement. Although they are not a party, they have been a key player in the work of JuntsPelSí.

The other party that supports independence, the CUP, a radical left wing and grassroots democracy party which is not part of the JuntsPelSí coalition, has obtained 10 seats. This gives a majority of seats of 4 in the Catalan Parliament to the pro-independence parties. However, the pro-independence movement does not have a clear run ahead:

1. The percentage of votes obtained by pro-independence parties is only 48%, far less than the 90% support given in 1978 to the current Spanish Constitution in Catalonia or the backing received by any of the successive Catalan Statutes of Autonomy.

2. An agreement between CUP and JuntsPelSí would be complex and would probably generate huge political tensions. The CUP questions the capitalist economic model defended by the majority of Catalan parties. They are real socialists who want to transform society. The CUP are also less amenable to half-way solutions when it comes to self-determination. They are calling for active civil desobedience against Spanish laws. Their attitude contrasts with the hugely pragmatic spirit of many of the conservative middle-class voters of JuntsPelSí, who, truly, would be happy now with a status of fiscal independence for Catalonia, like the one that the Basque Country enjoys since 1979.

3. The cracks between JuntsPelSí are obvious, not only because ERC is betraying its left-wing credentials by teaming up with the Catalan section of the Spanish economic Establishment. The current President of Catalonia, Artur Mas, the top candidate from CDC, was only the number four in the list of the JuntsPelSí, despite the seniority of his party in the coalition. The fact that he is expected to face criminal prosecution for serious and continued episodes of corruption may have played a role. Worryingly for this coalition, the percentage of votes that they obtained by presenting themselves as a united front for independence is lower than the percentage they obtained as separate parties in 2012. They have managed to shout louder, thanks to their total control of Catalan public media, they have persuaded an important part of the population to support independence, but their parties have not grown in number of votes.

4. The Spanish elections in December 2015 will hopefully bring the reign of the right wing PP to an end, which will have a positive effect in the relations with Catalonia. Their results in this Catalan elections have been the worst ever. Their contribution as a national party in government to the moral, economic and political decline of Spain will be remembered for centuries. It is difficult to imagine a more inept leader than Mariano Rajoy. The political clumsiness of the PP in the handling of the Catalan question and the economy, coupled by their inherently corrupt nature as an organisation, would make you chuckle if it wasn’t so sad. As soon as the PP are out, a lot of people, including myself, will feel less embarrassed of being associated in anyway to Spain

There is a popular outcry for independence in Catalonia, louder and more colourful than ever, independence is utterly cool, but the Catalans who want to remain in Spain are still a majority, the quiet majority.

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