Fluid, fast-moving, breathtaking

No, I'm not describing the Barcelona football team, but what's happening in Catalunya.

Updating what I wrote yesterday, I've learned from this post on CataloniaDirect that a cross party committee of the Catalan Parliament last week agreed not to progress with the People's Initiative to get the signatures of 3% of the electorate in order to have an official referendum on independence. The reason for this is that the power to hold such consultative referendums was in one of clauses of the Statute of Autonomy that was recently rejected by the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal. I mentioned in this post that the power to call such referendums was in the new SoA, but didn't know until now that it was in one of the clauses which had been struck out.

I must admit to thinking that those wanting a referendum would press ahead anyway, not just to get the threshold, but to get as many signatures as possible, in order to demonstrate the strength of public opinion. But, as I said yesterday, it would only be a gesture because even if the Catalan Parliament then voted to hold an official referendum, the Spanish Government would veto it. If that avenue is cut off, the only way forward will be for Spain to change its constitution (which it obviously won't) or for the Catalan Parliament to declare independence unilaterally, but they can only do that with any authority if a majority of Deputies have been elected on that specific mandate.

The next elections to the Catalan Parliament are due this Autumn and, as a democracy, Spain would find it very hard to stop candidates standing on any platform they like. True, they were able to ban two nationalist parties just before the 2009 election in Euskadi, but they did so on the grounds that they were linked to ETA. Whether that was actually true or not is open to debate, but the timing was such that they were unable to re-form under new banners and this, arguably, cost the nationalists some seven seats and put them in opposition for the first time in thirty years. But Spain can hardly play that card again in Catalunya, because nationalists there have not used violence.

So, without any realistic possibility of holding a referendum on independence within the current Catalan or Spanish Constitution, the only game in town is to make this election into one where the main issue is independence.


The news today is that a new organization, Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència, has been formed with that aim, which is exactly what Reagrupament have been pressing for. The three leading lights are Alfons López Tena, Joan Laporta and Uriel Bertran, as pictured below.


That Joan Laporta is included is no great surprise. The other two are the most visible faces of the series of unofficial referendums held over the past few months. But what is critical is that they are members of CiU and the ERC respectively, and are resigning their positions in their parties to do this.

In effect they are telling their parties—and their supporters, of course—that independence is more important than anything else, and I think it will be obvious from the tone of the CataloniaDirect post that there is a certain amount of frustration that neither CiU nor the ERC have bought into that agenda. But I think I can understand the position of those parties, because it is the same dilemma that we in Plaid Cymru face: although independence for Wales is our raison d'être, we can't be an electable political party unless we also take a position on all the other issues in day-to-day politics in the process of getting there.

It simply isn't credible to say, as the post appears to be saying, that if they don't get a majority that can declare independence they can be "a very strong coalition able to destabilize the Catalan Parliament" instead. Catalunya, like Spain and the rest of western Europe, has got to deal with matters like the economy, jobs, public services and the fiscal deficit with or without independence. So I'm with the ERC on this one, they can't rule out being in government if there isn't a majority in the Parliament to declare independence ... they have to get on with the everyday things too, preferably as part of government.


Yet for the ERC there should be no real contradictions. They need to make clear that a vote for their candidates (Deputies are elected by means of a closed list, just like UK elections to the European Parliament) will be a vote for a person with a mandate to declare independence.

It is UiC who are going to be caught in the pincers. If they were able to make the same commitment, there would be no danger of them losing votes to the new group, although they might lose the votes of those who don't want independence. As I see it, it's a game of percentages. If your supporters really are two to one in favour of independence you will hold more votes than you will lose by declaring for independence. If you don't you will not get any more votes, and can only lose votes to the new group.

The beauty of UiC coming out in favour of independence is that it allows them to fight the election as much on the everyday issues as on independence. They can say, "Vote for us and you get a centre-right government to replace the current PSC-led alliance ... and you'll get to choose if you want to confirm the declaration of independence." It's a win-win.

From the point of view of independence, such a move would provide three options for voters who want it. If you want independence and are on the left ... vote ERC. If you want independence and are on the centre-right ... vote UiC. If you want independence but are non-party political and concerned primarily with maintaining Catalunya's culture and language ... and of course football ... vote for Laporta and his "good number of relevant personalities and intellectuals linked to the independentist scene". This third group of potential voters is important. With turnout in the last referendum at 48.9% and turnout in the last Catalan election at 56.8% there are a lot of people who are yet to be engaged in the process of getting the independence that they say they want when asked in an opinion poll.

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Colin said...


MH said...

The Stage 1 Committee Report is here and here, Colin.

I've only read half of it so far.

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