9N: Catalans Fear and Hope
On 9N the Catalans ought to have a say on their aspirations as a country. To this moment, however, it is still uncertain whether the Spanish authorities would act to stop Catalonia citizens from expressing their opinion on the heated issue of their relationship with Spain.
Sadly, the Spanish administration and the Spain’s two major parties view on the ‘right to decide’ has been radically opposed to the sensible approach of the UK government to Scotland’s referendum. A political mistake that represents only the last episode of the long lasting decay of the Spanish democracy.
Spain over the last decade has been unable to interpret the global trends: failing to implement structural reforms to end the crisis, being delusional about its multi-national nature, neglecting cultural diversity or abandoning the country to corruption. On the contrary, the Spanish government is acting in the worst imaginable manner, accelerating recentralisation measures, challenging devolved policies, or blurring the division of powers interfering directly upon the judiciary and the media. A ruinous democratic regression landscape overall.
This attitude harms not only the universal rights of those whom through all available legal ways have expressed their aim to show up their opinion, but also represents an unacceptable precedent in an already weakened European Union.
It is hard to acknowledge how (apparently) in the sake of a Constitution can an European government deny universal rights, which nonetheless the very Constitution boasts to preserve. In spite of establishing the indivisibility of Spain, the Constitution offers no provision against the possibility to non-bindingly ask citizens about any of its core aspects.
In tricking the public presenting a blatant political issue as an insurmountable legal conundrum Mariano Rajoy compels us to recall the dark days of a regime that Spain overcame by breaking the legal ties of the dictatorship, precisely. Moreover, the Spanish institutional layout has allowed both PP and PSOE to turn the Constitutional Court into a private preserve, monopolising its composition and influencing their decisions to this very day.
The Catalan support for independence is necessarily the outcome of not one but several circumstances. International analysts often point out to some of the most obvious: the disrespectful aggression to our language and other signs of Catalan identity, summarised in Minister Wert’s aim to ‘Spanishize Catalan schoolchildren’, the humiliating collapse of the Catalan Estatut at the hands of the Constitutional Court, the outrageous fiscal imbalance and the insufficient state investment in Catalonia.
There are at least two other sensible issues adding grievances to the former though: The strong mistrust of the population derived from an extended list of breaches by both the socialist and popular governments experienced, which makes any potential future agreement appear flimsy. Or the on-going and intense state recentralisation with which any offer to accommodate the Catalans becomes unlikely and unworkable. The latest includes any federal development suggested by the socialists so far, which do not recognise the Catalan’s right to decide.
The lack of credibility on the socialist’s side in Catalonia is also rooted in the realisation that socialist governments have carried similar consequences despite a more polite attitude. This has been particularly experienced over the time when all administrations (from Barcelona’s town hall to la Zarzuela) were controlled by the PSC and the PSOE with no major overall improvements.
Back to the UK precedent, the Tory government similarly could have also raised the issue of a ‘non-constitutional’ referendum in Scotland since the very Act of Union clearly establishes that ‘the two Kingdoms of Scotland and England shall upon the first day of May next ensuing the date hereof, and for ever after, be united into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN’. David Cameron stated instead: ’I am a passionate believer in our United Kingdom – I wanted more than anything for our United Kingdom to stay together. But I am also a democrat. And it was right that we respected the SNP’s majority in Holyrood and gave the Scottish people their right to have their say.’
Even today the MEP Ian Duncan remind us: ‘before I am a Unionist, before I am a Conservative, I am a democrat. I believe that the right to vote is one of the most fundamental and precious rights we enjoy. There is nothing more frustrating or dispiriting than encountering on the doorstep an individual who isn’t going to vote, or who believes that there vote doesn’t matter. I believe voting makes a difference. I believe that the people are sovereign. Vox populi, vox Dei.’
Why Mr Rajoy has not apply the common sense or the precedent served by his conservative colleagues then? He is certainly trapped in his own spider web thread by the Popular Party over years of catalanophobia. He is doomed to lose Catalonia over a short-sighted vote exchange.
An eventual Catalan vote for independence, rather than a threat, represents a unique opportunity to define a solid path to channel all legitimate national aspirations to come within the Union. A EU failure to raise Europe’s voice to ring-fence basic democratic standards within its borders is a terrible mistake. Antagonising those happy net contributors who faithfully believe in the idea of a fraternal and socially fair Europe would certainly weaken it further.
Fortunately, the international community has more appealing ways to express their support to a democratic and peaceful movement like the Catalan Way: Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Dario Fo, Ken Loach, Noam Chomsky, Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett, Harold Bloom, Paul Preston, Ignacio Ramonet, Johan Cruyff, Ronald Kasrils, Wuer Kaixi, Hu Jia, Ambler Moss, Andrea Camilleri, Colm Tóibín, Bill Shipsey, Peter Sís, among others have expressed their desire to allow the citizens of Catalonia to vote on their political future and to negotiate in good faith from the poll result.
The Catalans will ultimately decide their future in one way or another. The EU cannot afford losing one of its most active, productive and loyal nations, as Spain cannot afford losing a future South-European ally. The 9N must end as a celebration of democracy and on Monday both the Catalan and the Spanish governments must accept the outcome of the participation process to immediately initiate fair negotiations.