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4 de jul. 2016

The (painful) birth of a nation

The Catalans' independence process is in an anguishing quandary. The ruling proindy coalition has its road map, but since the crisis caused by the decision of the radical proindy coalition CUP (perhaps unwittingly: not all factions are versed in parliamentary procedures) to block the budget bill, it is nuclear whether the road map is still valid.
In September president Carles Puigdemont will put a motion of confidence to the chamber to see whether the proindy camp still consists of the 72/135 outright majority it won at the 27 September election, which just failed in its attempt to show the world that over half of the electorate regarded it as a plebiscite and opted for independence.
The CUP will have to do some hard thinking before then. It needs to realise that most of the voters of its ten MPs (up from their previous three) feel disgusted by their behaviour since the elections. They were enthusiastically voted in by voters who were and are proindy (yet neither Marxists nor Anarchists) to ensure the independence process would not be stalled or dragged out by the more moderate coalition now in power. That dream began to crumble when the seemingly endless talks to reach a stable post-27S parliamentary agreement only came to fruition at the last minute thanks to the decision of president Mas to step aside. And the fream was finally shattered when the CUP voted alongside the Unionist (or Federalist) opposition to oust the 2016 budget bill (and in the process drastically cutting any hope of being able to draw on new resources to increase social spending).

Should the CUP not support the president in September, it would probably have to face a new election at which it could well be wiped off the parliamentary map. Can it put its ideological considerations to one side, at least until Catalonia has become an independent state? Like others have admitted having to do at recent elections, it will need to block its nose with a clothes peg. 

In the meantime there is a passionate grasdroots debate on the whys and wherefores of the steps to be made up to independence: the road map. Given the utter and complete refusal of the main Spanish parties to regard the Catalans as a people, and therefore to contemplate their right of self-determination, the next steps will have to be unilateral. Every single step up to now has been challenged by central government. Even a poll organised (9 November 2014) in the framework of a Catalan law which specifically excludes referendums, and could therefore not be binding (and which the Constitutional Court rushed to rule contrary to the Constitution!), had to be held without access to the electoral roll (which was refused) and has led to four Catalan politicians being taken to court! 

So it is clear that a (binding) referendum cannot be called until after Catalonia becomes independent. It is also clear that Spain will not allow this step, so an institutional collision is inevitable and massive (guided) disobedience essential for this aim to be achieved. 

This means that a formal parliamentary declaration of independence is the only viable option.

At this time there is frenzied activity in delegations of the Catalan national assembly  across the country. Are members to ratify the secretariat's proposal that the ANC should push for a change in the Government's road map, given the fragility of the relationship between the three pareties seeking independence.

Scathing criticisms of the way the Partido Popular has tried to manage the Catalaan "problem" over the past ten or fifteen years (such as this one, in a non-Catalan newspaper) help explain its decline in electoral support in Catalonia.

A referendum campaign would lead us into the repetition of a bunch of fearmongering claims (similar to those that Scotland went through), and dire threats (punishing civil servants for using the census; or recentralisation, for instance), though some are bubbles that have already been burst: that Catalans would "automatically" lose their EU citizenship, that Catalans would lose their pensions, that there would be a massive GDP collapse because of a Spanish boycott of Catalan products... 

The international front is crucial for the success of the Catalan enterprise, in terms not so much of actual (explicit or implicit) support for the process as such, but rather of the endorsement of the declaration (or proclamation, which the White Paper states will occur separately) of independence and, therefore, of the recognition of Catalonia as a sovereign State like Slovakia, Latvia or  Montenegro. This is why the extremely poor status of Spain in Europe (as poignantly highlighted in articles by Molina - in English - and Mangas, for instance) is such a significant factor right now. 

Further reading:

"After bottoming out: a new European policy for Spain". Ignacio Molina. ARI 8/2013 (Translated from Spanish) - 29/4/2013.

"España en la UE: luces y sombras". Araceli Mangas Martín. El País, 8 June 2015. http://www.elmundo.es/opinion/2015/06/08/5574714922601dc7448b4575.html

"Los catalanes hacen cosas" y otras históricas ocurrencias del PP de Rajoy. Luz Sanchis / Fátima Caballero. El Diario, 29 August 2015. http://www.eldiario.es/politica/esquizofrenia-PP-Cataluna_0_424858072.html

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