Don't be afraid of another vote, Catalunya

One of the things that characterizes those who voted for Brexit in June 2016 is that we should stick to the decision to leave come what may. I have always thought that the UK should reverse Brexit if and when it ever becomes clear that public opinion has changed ... that opinion being expressed either in another referendum or in a general election if the winning party specifically included staying in the EU as part of its manifesto.

In short, we should always respect a democratic decision; but it would be wrong to maintain that a democratic decision, once made, is unchangeable in the future. We should never be afraid to ask people to vote as many times as is necessary to properly reflect their opinions. That is why, for example, I have never been afraid of "little and often" referendums on our National Assembly gaining more powers.

-

But this isn't really a post about Brexit or Wales. There are more pressing things to concentrate on right now, and the situation in Catalunya is one of them. By now it should be clear to anyone in the world who has taken any interest in the subject that the Spanish Government does not want any discussion or dialogue about Catalan independence. They are determined only to force the Catalans to submit to their will, and independence is something they completely refuse to countenance. This really should come as a no surprise to anyone who has been following events over the last few years; but we need to remember that most of the world hadn't been following events and therefore, probably quite reasonably, had taken the position that the obvious thing for the Spanish and Catalan governments was talk, negotiate and try and reach an agreement.

It has taken these past three weeks for this to become clear to the world, but negotiations can't happen unless both sides are willing to negotiate. One side has shown that it doesn't want this, so each side now has no choice except to continue on their respective paths. But this isn't a disaster for, as it happens, both paths lead to the same place ... at least in the short term.

-

The Catalan plan was to declare independence—which I expect them to do formally and unambiguously this week—and then hold new elections in Catalunya to establish a constitution for the new republic. It appears that the Spanish plan, agreed by the three biggest Spanish political parties (the PP, PSOE and Cs) is to dissolve the present Catalan Parliament with a view to holding new elections in Catalunya. It doesn't take a Baldrick to realize that this cunning plan to thwart Catalan independence might not be as cunning as the Spanish think it is.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. It really doesn't matter if one side calls this election a constitutory election for the new republic and the other side calls it an ordinary election to elect a replacement autonomous community government. Whether it turns out to be one, the other, or something else, will entirely depend on which way the people of Catalunya vote. If a majority of voters vote for parties that will establish a constitution for the new Catalan state, then those they elect will have enough seats to go ahead and do exactly that. But if the majority vote for parties who intend to carry on as if no declaration of independence had been made, then those they elect will have enough seats to run Catalunya as an autonomous community in Spain and the independence project will be over ... which is exactly what should happen in a democracy. No democrat should want independence for their country unless it is supported at the ballot box.

-

In other words, I don't think those who want to establish Catalunya as an independent state should have anything to fear from free and fair elections later this year or early next year. It might turn out that pro-independence parties do not get a majority this time. That would neither validate nor invalidate the election on 1 October (no matter what people might claim) it would merely demonstrate that people had changed their minds and no longer wanted what they voted for earlier. It would be just like a vote to reverse Brexit.

But, on the other hand, if the pro-independence candidates again win a majority, the Spanish Government will then have exhausted its democratic options to prevent Catalan independence. They will either have to accept defeat with as much grace as they can muster, or will have to impose direct rule through the use of more physical force. After the way the Spanish State behaved on 1 October, I am sure that support for independence can only have increased.

-

There is only one problem. I specifically said that those who want an independent Catalunya have nothing to fear from free and fair elections. But most of the world is probably not aware that the Spanish State has a far from unblemished record for holding free and fair elections. The most relevant example is the Basque election of 1 March 2009. Two left-leaning pro-independence parties, Demokrazia 3,000,000 and Askatasuna were banned right in the middle of the election campaign. Left with no opportunity to regroup, this meant that for the first time in some 30 years, Basque nationalists were unable to form a governing coalition, and a Spanish nationalist government was formed instead.

If left to their own devices, I am sure the Spanish State would try something similar in Catalunya now. They would probably argue that any political party or group that wanted something contrary to the Spanish Constitution was seditious in nature and therefore had no right to stand in elections. Spain has shown that it is quite prepared to pervert the law to serve its own purposes with the current imprisonment of the leaders of the ANC and Òmnium. So it is a cast-iron certainty that they would try and do more of the same if they thought they could get away with it.

-

So what, practically, can be done to stop them getting away with it in the same way as they did in 2009? One thing would be to try get international mediation for any new elections, even though the international community has been reticent to get involved and will probably continue to be. So the best thing would be for pro-independence candidates to form one, and only one, united group. If the group is split in any way, the Spanish State will find it that much easier to pick off one of them. The present Catalan Parliament is includes a cross-party pro-independence group, Junts pel Sí, and then CUP, who refused to join that list even though they also support independence. Imagine a situation where Spain only banned CUP. If the vote were the same as in 2015 the loss of the 10 CUP seats would mean that pro-independence candidates would not have a majority. Put bluntly, the world probably won't bat an eyelid at the suppression of a small party, because their focus will naturally be on the bigger one. But if there is only one pro-independence group, and Spain bans it, the world will no longer be able to maintain the pretence that Spain is behaving as a Western democracy.

Personally, I have no doubt that in a free and fair election, the those wanting independence for Catalunya would again win a clear majority and if so, this time round, neither Spain nor any other country would be able to deny it or cast a shadow of doubt over the result. Bring it on.

Bookmark and Share

Slovenia will recognize an independent Catalunya

In view of the fact that Catalunya specifically looked to Slovenia as a model of how to become independent in the face of strong initial opposition from most Western countries and the EU, I think there's some poetic justice in the government of that country being one of the first to indicate that it will recognize an independent Catalunya.

More on the story at VilaWeb.

-

Also, Spain is none too pleased that Venezuela has criticized them for holding political prisoners. They've just summoned the Ambassador. I'm quite sure the Ambassador will explain things to Spain in no uncertain terms.

Bookmark and Share

Help Catalunya Save Europe

Far from engaging in dialogue and discussion, the Spanish State has decided to aggravate the situation by imprisoning (not after any sort of trial, but by arresting them on suspicion of sedition and then denying them bail) Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, leaders of the main civic movements behind the mass demonstations in support of independence over the past five years, Òmnium and the ANC.

Òmnium have produced this video in English, which I think needs to be shared as widely as possible.

     

People can also sign the Help Catalonia Save Europe manifesto here.

Despite the picture painted by most media outlets, things are far from hopeless. At present I think the main priority is to show the rest of the world that Spain has absolutely no intention of resolving the matter by dialogue. It clearly thinks that increasingly draconian measures like these imprisonments will force Catalans back into the box in which Spain would like to keep them.

-

Another thing we can do is show support for Catalunya at this rally in Cardiff on Saturday 28 October, organized by Yes Cymru.

 
     

Bookmark and Share

Will the Greens go for independence?

This weekend I was forwarded an interesting document from the Green Party in Wales. As most people reading this will know, Britain has had two separate Green Parties since the UK party split in 1990, one in England and Wales and one in Scotland. There has been talk over the last few years of the Welsh Greens forming a separate party, and things now appear to be coming to a head, with the leadership in Wales seeing it as a positive development. They have produced a paper for discussion, and I don't think they would mind me quoting the opening part of it.

Introduction

The Green Party of England and Wales was created in 1990 when the former Green Party covering the United Kingdom split into separate parties. The Scottish Greens and Green Party of Northern Ireland formed separate parties. The Wales Green Party (WGP) has Autonomous Regional status within the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) the details of which are laid out in Appendix B of the Constitution of the Green Party. Whilst the constitution of the GPEW says there is a federal structure in place the reality is that Wales has very limited autonomy under the current arrangements. Currently, the Leader of WGP sits on the Green Party Executive (the body in charge of day-to-day running of the party), and Wales has 2 representatives out of 20 on the Green Party Regional Council (the body in charge of strategy, party well-being and other longer-term issues).

Constitutional change within the United Kingdom has witnessed the creation of the National Assembly for Wales in 1998. The law-making abilities of the NAfW have increased since 1998 and are likely to further increase as a result of the Wales Act 2017.
 

Problems with the current arrangements

The Scottish Greens made a breakthrough into the Scottish Parliament many years ago, and have become an accepted part of the political mainstream in Scotland. We have had no such success in Wales. While the reasons for this are complex, there is no doubt that the predominantly London-based Green Party media operation has never put any effort into trying to cover Welsh issues; and GPEW generally is very English-centred in its thinking.
 

What is the point of this paper?

Wales Green Party Council (WGPC) has been discussing the future status of the Wales Green Party for the last two years. The view of WGPC is that breaking away from GPEW in the same way that Scotland and Northern Ireland have already done offers the best chance of a successful Green political party in Wales ...

I won't quote more than this because the paper goes into details about party finances and membership. However, a separate Welsh Green Party would be financially better off than it currently is as an autonomous region of the GPEW. And, just in case anyone sees obvious parallels with what is happening in Catalunya, the English Greens would certainly not respond by accusing the Welsh leadership of sedition or by threatening to suspend the Welsh party's autonomy.

-

I'm not a member of the Green Party, but their politics probably align more closely with mine than those of any other party in Wales, and I wish them well.

To put it bluntly, the Greens in Wales have virtually no chance of winning seats in Westminster, but they do have a very real chance of winning regional seats in the National Assembly. To do this, they need to be able to devote resources to developing, and more critically presenting, specific policies in areas that are devolved to Wales. Becoming independent would raise their profile in Wales.

What you are perceived to be is important. I know from numerous political discussions that one of the biggest obstacles the Green Party has faced at elections in Wales has been the perception that it is an "English" party. Becoming independent would change that perception. Additionally, I'm sure that a separate Green party in Wales would draw considerable support from people who currently vote for Plaid Cymru because they paint themselves as a green party, even though Plaid's green credentials don't really stand up to much scrutiny.

My advice to Green Party members in Wales is to take this opportunity and become independent.

Bookmark and Share

Military Rule in Catalunya?

Along with many others, I've been following events in Catalunya closely, in particular looking to see the reaction from other countries. By far the most disturbing report I've read recently is this from Global Resaech, an organization based in Montréal. They were re-posting this article from wsws.org. These are some quotes from it.

Spain moves toward military rule in Catalonia

With the Spanish media discussing the invocation of Article 116 to impose a state of emergency or state of siege, it is clear that Rajoy is moving rapidly to establish military rule not only in Catalonia, but across all of Spain.

Army sources told El País Wednesday morning that they are preparing to move into Catalonia and crush any opposition from sections of the 17,000-strong Catalan regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, or civilians loyal to the Catalan nationalist parties. Under the attack plan, code-named Cota de Malla (Chain Mail), the army will back police and Guardia Civil operations in Catalonia. It will march significant forces into the region to support two units already there—a motorized infantry battalion in Barcelona and an armored battalion in Sant Climent Sescebes.

This plan has been in preparation for a considerable period of time, according to El País. It was nearly invoked by Rajoy after the August 17 terror attack in Barcelona.

Rajoy is acting with the full support of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and on the basis of clear signals from the Podemos party that it will not oppose moves towards military dictatorship.

PSOE General Secretary Pedro Sánchez, a self-styled “left” within the party, hailed Rajoy’s initial statement. “We agree with the premier’s request for clarification, to clear up the swamp in which Premier Puigdemont has placed Catalan politics”, Sánchez said.

Asked whether this meant that Madrid was activating Article 155, he replied, “Of course, it is obvious that we are activating it.”

Amid rumors of plans for a PP-PSOE government of national unity, Sánchez indicated that the PSOE would work with the PP on plans to rewrite the Spanish Constitution.

I'm not exactly sure how seriously to take this, as the World Socialist Web Site clearly looks at the world from a particular perspective. But I thought I'd post it because it paints perhaps the most frightening picture of what could happen.

Bookmark and Share

Declaring Independence

I originally expected the Catalan Government to declare independence this time last week, within 48 hours of the result being announced on Sunday evening; but I suppose that they reasonably argue that it would take a little longer for the postal votes from abroad to be counted, which is why the declaration is expected to come today.

I think we should expect a formal document, with appropriate lofty rhetoric similar to that of the American declaration of independence from the United Kingdom. But I also expect that, once made, the implementation of independence will be suspended to allow for negotiations.

From what I can gather, the "model" that the Catalans are likely to follow is that of Slovenia. This is from the Australian:

Ramon Tremosa, an MEP for the Catalan European Democratic Party [PDeCAT] which Mr Puigdemont leads, said the region should follow Slovenia’s example: it declared independence then suspended it while it conducted negotiations with what was then the Yugoslav federation. It finally became a fully independent state in 1991 as the rest of Yugoslavia plunged into civil war.

“Nobody can recognise internationally an independence that has not been achieved. We know from the experience of Slovenia and other countries that this experience may take weeks or months,” said Mr Tremosa.

The Australian - 10 October 2017

This prompted me to remind myself of exactly what did happen in Slovenia in 1991. I thought that this quote from the Wiki article on the Ten-Day War was particularly appropriate:

On the diplomatic front, neither the European Community nor the United States were willing to recognize the independence of Slovenia and strongly advocated the continuation of a unified Yugoslavia. The Slovenian government sought international assistance in negotiating a peaceful breakup of Yugoslavia but was rebuffed by Western countries that said they preferred to deal with a single federation rather than numerous small states. However, the Slovenes contended that they had no choice in pushing for independence, given a perceived lack of commitment to democratic values on the part of the Belgrade authorities.

Wikipedia, Ten-Day War

Within a matter of weeks, these same Western Countries had changed their minds. I think what was true in the case of the break up of Yugoslavia sixteen years ago will prove to be equally true in the case of the break up of Spain now.

At the moment, the governments of Western countries have been monolithic in their support for a united Spain. They are, quite understandably, afraid of uncertainty. The one thing that will make them change their minds is, as a more inclusive Harold Macmillan would now say, "Events, dear boys and girls. Events."

Hopefully, the Spanish State won't react to today's expected declaration of independence with more violence, so that there won't be any need for a new Brijuni Agreement to stop the fighting. But a three-month suspension of independence to allow a new Catalan constitution to be written and formal independence recognized by a majority of Western countries on, say, 1 January 2018, looks to me to be the most likely outcome.

Bookmark and Share

Support for Catalunya

I went to two rallies in support of Catalunya yesterday, the first was in Llanelli at lunchtime, and the second in Carmarthen in the evening. Here's a video of the first from Llanelli Online.

     

Bookmark and Share

A more decisive vote than Brexit

First, I want to express my admiration for those in Catalunya who had the courage to vote in yesterday's referendum, and I particularly want to salute those who were injured by the Guardia Civil and the police forces sent in from outside Catalunya. It was a great shame that the Spanish State acted in the way it did, but thankfully no-one was killed. A small mercy.

In terms of the vote itself, I have no reason to doubt the official figures announced last night and published this morning.

Of votes counted:

Yes ... 2,020,114 ... 90.1%
No ... 176,566 ... 7.8%
Blank ... 45,586 ... 2.0%
Void ... 20,129 ... 0.9%

Electorate ... 5,343,358
Turnout ... 42.3%
Yes as percentage of total electorate ... 37.8%

Source

It is worth noting that the Leave side won the UK's referendum on EU membership with the votes of 37.4% of the total electorate (17,410,742 out of 46,500,001). So if we accept the UK's vote as decisive, we must accept Catalunya's vote as equally decisive, if not more so. In fact the EU, and every one of its member states, has accepted the UK's decision, so it would be inconsistent for them not to accept this democratic decision as well.

-

But of course the number voting for Catalan independence is in fact somewhat higher that the official figures show, because they only represent the votes that could be counted. The Catalan government estimates that 770,000 intended votes were not counted either because people were physically prevented from voting, or because the votes that had actually been cast were then stolen by the Spanish authorities. Clearly this is a more contentious figure, not least because those who were prevented from voting in one location might well have voted elsewhere; but I think it's reasonable to assume that the stolen ballot boxes would have roughly the same mix of votes as the ones that weren't stolen.

So at the high end, 90% of 770,000 would be another another 693,000 Yes votes, or more than 2.7m in total representing some 50.5% of the total electorate. At the low end, if the figure only represents those who could have voted, then 38% of 770,000 would be another 293,000 Yes votes, or about 2.3m in total representing some 43.0% of the total electorate. The real number of missing Yes votes would be somewhere between the two.

-

One of the things I've heard and read repeatedly in the media is the claim that support for Catalan independence has fallen over the last few years. These voting figures don't bear this out. In the consultatory referendum of 2014, the Yes/Yes vote (in favour of Catalunya becoming a state, and for it to be an independent state) was 1,861,753.

-

I have no doubt that when the Catalan Parliament next meets, in the next day or two, it will declare Catalunya to be an independent state.
 

 
Update - 23:00, 8 October 2017

With the postal votes now counted, the final referendum result is:

Of votes counted:

Yes ... 2,044,038 ... 92.0%
No ... 177,547 ... 8.0%
Blank ... 44,913 ... 2.0%
Void ... 19,719 ... 0.9%

Electorate ... 5,313,564
Turnout ... 43.0%
Yes as percentage of total electorate ... 38.5%

Source

Bookmark and Share