What Next for Catalonia?

Participation in the November 9 “participatory process” in Catalonia exceeded my expectations. According to reports, 2.3 million people participated in a nonbinding vote organized by volunteers, a figure that would amount to over 40% of the electorate. (No electoral roll was used for this election because of Spanish Constitutional Court rulings prohibiting the support of the Catalan government; voters had to show identification in order to vote.)

Of those who voted, 81% supported “Yes-Yes” (yes to Catalan statehood, yes to Catalan independence), 10% went “Yes-No,” and 4.5% voted “No.” Gràfic dades 3Many voters who would have otherwise voted “No” boycotted the process entirely. Still, in the last Catalan election, 3.6 million votes were cast. We could take that number to be a rough estimate of those who would actually turn out to vote in a binding referendum. Since over 1.8 million voters went for Yes-Yes in a purely nonbinding show of support, we can confidently predict that a binding referendum would yield a clear majority in favor of independence.

Another data point in favor of this conclusion is that just under 1.9 million voters voted in favor of Catalonia’s proposed new statute of autonomy in 2006, which was 73% of those voting. A binding referendum on independence would surely attract higher negative turnout, but there is no way around the conclusion that support for independence could well reach 55 or even 60% in such a vote.

What next? Catalan President Artur Mas said in a speech after the vote results were announced that he would pursue negotiations over a legally binding referendum with the Spanish state. But what will happen when the Spanish state refuses to negotiate with him, as it will assuredly do? Mas seems to be leaving the door open to a prolonged period of stasis, which is exactly what the Spanish government wants, thinking as they apparently do that the Catalans will eventually “return to sanity” if they simply wait long enough. On the other hand, he could simply be giving the Spanish government one last chance to negotiate, and if that fails, to go ahead with an extraconstitutional plan, such as the “plebiscitary election” favored by the Catalan Republican Left.

25 thoughts on “What Next for Catalonia?

  1. I am afraid that you have drawn the wrong conclusion.

    Despite years of non-stop pro-independence propaganda on all public television and radio stations, years of indoctrination in public schools, vilification of anyone who dared to argue in favor of a united Spain; despite all of the nocturnal torchlit marches with flags and drums, despite tying yellow plastic to every tree and lamppost in every city and town, and despite a campaign that promised every kind of utopia (including, believe it or not, ice cream every day); despite the millions and millions of euros spent only one Catalan in four ‘voted’ for an independent Catalonia.

    For years they have told us that 80% of Catalans wanted to vote; the reality is that just one in three went to the public schools in order to put their pieces of paper into cardboard boxes.

    Catalan Nationalism has been shown to be a paper tiger; King Artur Mas has just realized that he is in fact naked; that there is no chance of a pro-independence vote. Prime Minister Rajoy will be under no pressure to offer any kind of deal.

    The truth of the matter is that Nationalism is always the same; right-wing, illiberal, populist, anti-democratic, anti-freedom of thought and of speech, and with total control over press, television, radio and schooling.

    Catalan Nationalism is no different.

    1. It’s actually one in three eligible voters. You’re telling me that 100% of those who stayed home opposed independence? Come on.

      What about Spanish nationalism?

  2. Population of Catalonia:- 7,571,000
    Europe 2014 electoral roll:- 5,318,416
    Yesterday’s eligible ‘voters’:- 6,297,727
    Yesterday’s actual ‘voters’:- 2,305,309 (although they can ‘vote’ anytime over next 2 weeks!)
    ‘Voters’ in favour of Independence:- 1,861,753 (obviously some are still ‘voting’)

    The votes declared for yesterday were recounted in secrecy by pro-independence volunteers, with no neutral or official control whatsoever, just as in the Ukranian eastern provinces.

    My calculator gives me the following figure:- 29.6% of ‘voters’ desire independence. The rest, very evidently, do not.

    Yes, EVERYBODY who stayed at home is against independence. Old people and invalids had special transport laid on to ensure that not one Nationalist vote stayed at home. Please note that the final figure achieved matches very closely the more serious opinion polls, conducted via telephone and requiring no ‘get out the vote’ effort.

    And as for Spanish Nationalism, this is a figment of Catalan imagination. There are fewer Spanish Nationalists in Spain than American Nazis in the USA and far, far fewer than those who vote UKIP in the UK or Front National in France.

    1. 5.4 million within Catalonia were eligible. Perhaps you are including the total number of overseas Catalans, of whom 13,000 voted. But since there were only a handful of polling stations abroad, that is not surprising.

      Whose fault is it that an informal vote with volunteers had to be held?

      It’s simply implausible that everybody who stayed home opposed independence. Even so, if turnout approximated that in the last Catalan parliamentary election, an absolute majority of votes would support independence.

      I would consider someone who favored the use of violence to keep an ethnic minority within his country from seceding to be a state nationalist. I don’t see any definition of the term that would exclude you, for instance.

      1. The difference between the 5.4 million who voted in May (and which includes overseas Catalans AND European Union residents) and the 6.3 million eligible to participate in Sunday’s farce was mainly due to the fact that 16 year olds were allowed to take part.

        The fault that it was informal was because it was ILLEGAL. An American State such as Texas has NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to secede from the USA. In fact, there is not a constitution in the world that permits such a thing. In the UK (which has no constitution) and Canada, special enabling laws were REQUIRED before any referendum could take place.

        Imagine a Hispanic Californian Governor and a mainly Hispanic Assembly and Senate calling for a Ballot Proposition to leave the USA.
        Imagine that the Supreme Court strikes this down as inconstitutional.
        Imagine that the Ballot Proposition goes ahead illegally anyway.
        Imagine that only the Hispanics turn out to vote (28% according to Wikipedia) and voted Yes to the Ballot Proposition.

        Would you not say that all those Californians who stayed at home were Americans who wished to stay American and continue living in America and were not prepared to take part in a farcical charade?

        This is almost EXACTLY the situation in north-eastern Spain.

      2. That math just doesn’t work out. I’m not prepared to think that 16 and 17 year olds make up 0.9/6.3=approximately 14% of the whole population of Catalonia. The figure I’ve seen in every English-language paper is 5.4 million eligible. Just based on past elections, 1.9 million “yes” voters will very likely be enough to put “yes” above 50%. They need only a trivial percentage of voters who stayed at home on 9N to support “yes” in order to reach a majority in a normal election.

        Actually, the constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis permits each island to secede. The Ethiopian constitution also contains a right to secede, but because of the ruling party’s authoritarian control it is ineffective. The Union of Serbia and Montenegro’s constitution contained a provision allowing unilateral secession. The European Union Constitution contains a right of unilateral secession.

        In Canada, the federal government did not pass any law before Quebec held its referendums. After the 1995 referendum, the Canadian parliament passed the Clarity Act decreeing that only the federal government could determine what a “clear question” and appropriate threshold for success would be in a future referendum. The Quebec government rejected their position. This remains an unsettled issue in Canada. But the two referendums were very definitely not authorized by the federal government in any sense.

        Mas is not saying the 9N gives Catalonia the right to declare independence. He’s saying it puts the onus on Rajoy to negotiate with him.

        If you’re right that independence would fail in a legally authorized referendum, then why doesn’t Rajoy support one? I think he won’t allow one because he knows he would lose it.

  3. I am a Catalan who has lived in Barcelona for more than 25 years, though I was born in London. Most Catalans would welcome a proper referendum similar to that held in Scotland, with properly established rules, institutional neutrality, plurality of opinions and options on all TV channels, reasoned debate with grey-haired experts debating the economic gains and pitfalls, debates in local civic centers and informed public debate. We have received NONE of that in the last few years, only ‘Spain robs us’, ‘Spain oppresses us’, ‘Spain hates us’, ‘Spain invaded us 300 years ago’ and similar blatant fabrications. As Goebels put it, tell a lie a sufficiently large number of times and the people will believe it. I suggest you watch this video to see what has been happening here:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA-gbpt7Ts8
    or this one:-
    http://dolcacatalunya.com/2014/06/17/vea-a-toni-alba-actor-de-tv3-y-miembro-de-la-anc-incitando-al-odio-a-espanya/

    As I mentioned in my first post, There is NO moral or ethical difference between Catalan Nationalism and any other Nationalist movement throughout history.

    1. That kind of referendum is precisely what the Catalan government has repeatedly sought, and what the Spanish government has repeatedly denied. One side is clearly at fault here.

      I’ve talked to lots of Catalan nationalists and I have never heard one of them say the things you attribute to them. They talk about the democratic qualities of the new state, the unfairness of the existing fiscal exploitation, and the intransigence of the Spanish state in negotiating with them. They refuse the term “nationalism” and many of them are native Castilian speakers or descendants of Spanish immigrants into Catalonia.

      I’ve also read lots of things written by Spanish nationalists, and I can’t see an argument beyond: 1) what they want is illegal; 2) nationalism is bad, and you’re only nationalist if you’re a minority – we’re not nationalists; 3) Catalonia has never really been independent + lots of things about Spanish history; 4) solidarity – it’s “social justice” to take from the rich Catalans and give to everyone else in Spain (but not social justice to require Spain to unify with sub-Saharan Africa – solidarity seems to end at the current political border); 5) the Catalans are just upset because of the recession (which is demonstrably untrue).

  4. Next time you visit Europe, let me know that you are coming and I will arrange for you to meet the victims of Catalan Nationalism. You are, apparently, an American libertarian, yet you defend a right-wing Nationalist movement which has over the last 30 years suppressed a multitude of individual freedoms in the name of greater territorial privileges, imposed a mandated public schooling system that excludes any possibility of receiving their education in Spanish as well as rewriting the history books that they are forced to study, as well as seizing absolute control over all public broadcasting televisions and radios in the region.

    Let me paint you a parallel picture; California.

    California, like Catalonia, is full of rich people and big industries that pay out, in real but not in proportional terms, a lot of taxes to less prosperous regions. California (unlike Catalonia) was at some stage an independent state. Imagine that California is full of Hispanics and that California State Law obliges ALL public schooling to be in Spanish with English only permitted 2 hours a week. Imagine that the Californian Governor, along with the State Congress and Senate, calls a referendum to vote on leaving the USA. This leads to a message from the US President (like the one he gave Texan independentists last year) that the US Constitution allows Stated to join but that there is no mechanism to leave. Imagine the Californian Governor Stating that California will refuse to accept the burden of the Californian debt or pay the pensions of anyone born outside of California.

    Can you imagine the US Government standing idly by while California holds a vote that the US Supreme Court has twice ruled unconstitutional and unlawful? Knowing that Texas, Vermont, and other states are just waiting to follow suit?

    Imagine that only ONE in every FOUR Californian voters think that leaving the USA is a good idea. Would you support the separatists or would you support the majority viewpoint?

    Are you as prepared to let California have it’s independence JUST AS MUCH as you defend the right of a small minority of Catalans to decide the future of their local four provinces of Spain?

    1. I think states should be allowed to secede by a vote of their residents (excluding those employed by the federal government). I have no problem with Puerto Rico’s policy of educating students in the native language of the region, nor do I have a problem with the existing Catalan policy. I would oppose any attempt to ban Spanish-medium education in private schools. I have no problem with the US government’s using English in its public television programming, the Spanish government’s using Spanish in its public television programming, or the Catalan government’s using Catalan in its public television programming, although I would favor the privatization of all media. Catalan independentists have always said that they would accept a fair share of the Spanish national debt, provided the Spanish government permitted them to secede. I also don’t think the Catalan independence movement is “right-wing”: the CiU has always been a mix of Christian Democratic and liberal elements, while the PP is truly a right-wing party.

      1. So if the Californian government bans the use of English as a teaching medium in 98% of all Californian schools and persists in this policy despite dozens of rulings from the Supreme Court against this ban, you would see this as perfectly acceptable? If you lived in California you would go to court to defend your right to have your children taught in English, and rightly so, and having won your case, you would then see that the Californian Govenment just laughs in your face!

        I also favour not only the privatisation of all media, but also the prohibition of goverment subsidies to friendly private media. In Catalonia the regional government spends hundreds of millions of euros every year in order to ensure friendly coverage from ALL Catalan language media, including digital.

      2. I don’t know about the legal cases involved here. I’m guessing those on the other side of the question would give a different narrative. But I think it’s OK for a government to use the native language of its citizens in the schools it owns. Tell me this: Can a Catalan family move to Madrid and obtain Catalan-medium education there? If not, does that mean Spain is also illiberal?

    1. There are fanatics on both sides, and I condemn them equally. They play an equally minor role on each side.

      But let’s look at the official campaigns. I follow the major independentist and unionist figures and organizations in Catalonia on Twitter. The independentist campaign has been relentlessly positive. The Ciutadans’ Twitter feed, by contrast, features a lot of sarcasm, schadenfreude (“#MasGameOver”), and paranoia (about things like vote fraud).

  5. An equally illegal independence referendum was held in Kosovo, then known as the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija between 26 and 30 September 1991. The dissolved Provincial Assembly had declared the Republic of Kosova a sovereign and independent state on 22 September 1991. Over 99% of voters voted in favour of independence, with a turnout of 87%.

    I am sorry for the many Catalan Nationalists, but with less than 30% support thay have no chance of independence.

    Remember also the referendum for the independence of Macedonia. They had a turnout of turnout of 75.7% and more than 96.4% in favor

    Montenegro had a legal and internationally recognized .referendum in 2006. Turnout was 86.5% and the result only just scraped the 55% Yes vote required by the law sponsored by the international community.

    With all due respects, the very poor result of less than 30% of electorate in favor is a disaster for those who want the independence of Catalonia.

    1. That’s spin. The “yes” camp has their own spin, of course, but just look at the numbers. 1.9 million votes is sufficient to win a majority in almost every election Catalonia has ever held.

      1. In the 2000 presidential election only 54% voted and less than half of these voted George W Bush, who became President anyway. That is nearly the same percentage as those who voted for independence on Sunday.

        A lot of people, especially in the USA, do not really care whether they are governed by democrats or by republicans.

        But my God they DO CARE about when they are given a choice between staying American or becoming a citizen of a different country, eg. Mexico. Especially when the English language they have spoken all their life would very likely become unofficial.

        You would reasonable expect the turnout to be far, far higher than for normal election.

      2. You may be right, and that’s what Mas says as well. Still, even if 4.5 million cast valid votes, which would be similar turnout to the Scottish referendum, “yes” would need only about 20% of those who stayed home on 9N in order to reach 50%. The Spanish government would be well advised to negotiate a higher threshold, like 55%. Then they would have a real chance of winning. But so far they refuse.

      3. Why should the Spanish Government negotiate anything?

        You say Spanish Government would better win if threshold 55%. But it HAS won! They won by ensuring vote completely unofficial, by not sending tanks or police to close schools and seize boxes, by not falling into trap of appearing bad.

        All those years of Catalan propaganda and lies, all those hundreds of millions of euros wasted, and for what? 30%? So sad!

        I make a bet with you. If Artur Mas really thinks he won, he will call early election this week or next week. If he knows he lost he will wait months and months, probably until after local elections May.

      4. I have to tell you that everywhere outside Spain the Spanish government does look like the bad guy.

        Now that the Spanish government is talking about issuing arrest warrants for Mas and his cabinet, I expect to see negotiations on a unitary list for plebiscitary elections to proceed fairly quickly. Those will be tough negotiations, but I think it’s likely there will be early elections with a unitary list. And after that, it will be Spain’s last chance. The pressure for a declaration of independence will be huge.

  6. I am afraid that you have got the wrong idea, again.

    No-one is talking of arrest warrants; no-one is going to see Artur Mas dragged away screaming in chains, nothing at all exiting is going to happen!

    What is possibly going to happen is that the judicial machinery is going to start working and after a suitable time has passed and when all of the judicial checks and balances have been finalized we may well see Artur Mas and maybe some of his colleagues charged with Contempt of Court and sentenced to a fine and a term of inhabilitation from any public office. Nothing more. The government of Spain has no need whatsoever to say anything or do anything; it is already in the hands of the civil servants responsible for ensuring that laws are complied with.

    This is not the first time that this will have happened. A few years ago the President of the Basque Parliament Juan Mari Atutxa was fined €18,000 and inhabilitated for 18 months for not complying with a Supreme Court order.

    Although you are an economist and philosopher, I am sure that you will appreciate the legal niceties of the situation.

    1. Thanks for the correction. Still, this response from the government does not seem very constructive.

      What will the Spanish state do if and when Catalonia declares independence?

      1. What would Barack Obama do if Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, were to declare Los Angeles an independent State no longer part of the USA?

        He would laugh his socks off!

        What did the government of Italy do when Umberto Rossi solemnly declared the independence of Padania the 15th September 1996?

        It laughed it’s socks off!

        What WOULD the Spanish state do if Catalonia declares independence?

        It would laugh it’s socks off!

        The Catalan Government is an intrinsic part of the government of Spain and it requires and spends central government money in order to pay civil service salaries (including police, firemen, doctors, nurses and teachers), PENSIONS, unemployment and disability benefits, service providers, suppliers, hospitals, schools, old people’s homes and pharmacies. The Spanish government, just like the government of Kiev, could if it so wished stop these payments at a moment’s notice. It might not be very politic, but my God it would be effective!

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