Catalan Referendum Troubling Spain

Photo source: DW

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

Catalonia, a northeastern region of Spain, wants to bid Spain adieu. Draped in red, yellow and blue separatist flags, many people held placards which read’ Goodbye Spain’ in the marches.

It is because they like to call themselves Catalans rather than Spaniards. But, the government in Madrid wants to block the referendum for independence that is scheduled on coming October 1st, 2017. Thats why, many Catalan youths, from different backgrounds, planned for more mass mobilisation around central Barcelona.

Wikileaks has recently published an inside story where they had accused Spanish intelligence services and the government calling for moves against the referendum. Its founder, Julian Assange, strongly favours the referendum.

There are reactions coming from everywhere in Spain. Several opposition parties in Catalonia like the Popular Party and Catalan Socialist Party have vowed not to participate in the referendum process.

Many analysts from the press worldwide believe that the economic woes since the 2008 financial crises, including chronic unemployment have fuelled the pro secessionism mood in Catalonia, lately.

The region also pays more taxes than the investments they receive from the central government in Madrid. This reason also has helped the cause of secession. Although, many argue that younger Catalans want to remain within Spain. This political test, if happened, might show the point of view of the majority.

Quite recently, BBC had noted that Catalans marked their national day, called as ‘the Diada’ with regional flag wavering marches and rallies in Barcelona. It reflected a massive outpour of people. Although, no episodes of usage of live ammunition, rubber bullets, or police brutality have been recorded until now.

However, the Spanish government is believed to have withheld several guns that were assigned to the Catalan Police (Mossos), since 2016. The Spanish government, on the contrary, accuses Catalan separatist leaders of using the national day for an independent state.

Since 2009, around three such referendums have taken place (three phases in 2009, three phases in 2010 and one phase in 2011). However, in 2014, in a Catalan self-determination referendum, an overwhelming majority of Catalans wanted a sovereign state of their own, although the turnout had been only 40%.

The nature of these referendums was non-binding and unofficial, according to the Spanish government, which allows the consultative referendum on ‘political decisions of special importance’. Although such a referendum requires the approval of both the government and the ‘Congress of Deputies’ (‘Cortes Generales’). But, enactments for a secession of any territory are not allowed, according to Article 2 of the 1978 Constitution, which calls for national unity.

Contrarily, Arthur Mas, the former President of the Autonomy Statute (Generalitat de Catalonia) signed the governability agreement on 19th December 2012, with Catalan political party, ERC, which declared that Catalan people have genuine reasons for ‘democratic legitimacy’, and ‘a right to decide their future.’ The Spanish government, at that point of time, had declared it a void agreement under their Federal Constitutional Court.

Catalonia is a region which in fact enjoys a greater autonomy within Spain. The prosperous region, home of 7.5 million people, holds considerable powers in education and healthcare policy. However, two separatist parties in Catalonia namely Junts Pel Si and the CUP, led by activist Carme Forcadell, have asked its regional assembly to suspend the speaker sessions, so that they can concentrate on the upcoming referendum vote. The Spanish government regards this exercise as a ‘coup against democracy.’

The developments are causing stern reactions from the Spanish government. They have ordered a criminal probe against pro-independence Catalan mayors, who have offered municipal facilities for the event.

Many of them don't want to be Spanish servants. The order consists a list of around 700 officials. It is because the supreme judiciary of the Constitutional Court in Madrid deems the referendum to be an illegal act. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative politician, is against the referendum as well.

The finance minister of Spain had also announced central government to take control of the Catalan finances. It is a move to safeguard the regional councils from receiving any slush funds for the independence vote. All bans on promotional materials, and ballot boxes are in effect. But, these developments are not stopping people to march for the referendum campaign. They, in fact, call it an oppressing move against the wishes of the Catalans.

In the past, revolutionary Catalonia, during and after the 1930 civil war, was largely controlled by anarchist and socialist trade unions. It had been a stronghold of libertarian socialists. During 1936, attacks on Spanish nationalists have been recorded in their history, as a reaction to the withdrawal of policies of collective farming in the countryside, and fighting against central power. It actually paved the way for fascist ‘Francoist Spain’ in coming years. Memoirs of George Orwell have recorded an extensive perception about anarchist thought in Spain.

Many Catalans belonging from several towns and villages have hailed these referendums as an act of defiance, and a symbolic victory against the central government. They view themselves ‘morally excluded’ from Spain’s Constitutional Court orders of the past.

Catalans believe, after independence, they will design a reformed tax agency, a new welfare system, which will redefine the purpose of the social security in their lives.

As of now, in this past week of September, several people had attended pro-independence meetings in places such as Tarraco Arena, in the port town of Tarragona, south of Barcelona. An audience of about 7,500 pro-independence activists had been recorded.


Popular Posts