Let the Catalonia out of the bag

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In the last Catalonian election held on September 27 the major pro-independence party obtained an outstanding majority of seats in Parliament. Such result has caused great controversy on the issue of Catalonia’s secession from Spain.

In fact, if the leading party ‘Junts pel Sí’ (Together for Yes) joins forces with the CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy), the pro-independence bloc would have 68 seats out of 135 in Parliament. By doing so, Junts pel Sí is planning on pushing forward Catalonia’s independence. According to their plan, Catalonia would become officially independent from Spain by 2017.

However, many analysts criticized such political goal, which they think to be illegal for several reasons. The most relevant is that it does not reflect people’s will. In fact, whilst pro-independence parties obtained a majority of seats in Parliament, they only had 47.8% of the vote. Consequently, the majority of the local population does not wish to secede from Spain. Furthermore, many Catalans proved this by publicly stating their preference for a third option rather than opting for maintaining the status quo or seceding. They claimed that it would be better for Catalonia to remain within the Spanish nation if the latter gave it greater fiscal autonomy and better laws focused on protecting Catalan language and culture.

Second, some analysts consider independence illegal because the Spanish constitution outlaws regional referendums. After the Catalan election, Madrid said it would prevent Catalonia from claiming autonomy with all its legal means. In spite of this, the leader of Junts pel Sí, Artur Mas, dismissed the accusations of illegitimacy. First, he repeated that Catalans must be given the chance to govern themselves, no matter what the old-fashioned Constitution says. In addition, since the last election was parliamentary and not a referendum, he thinks that it is the number of seats to make the difference and determine the will of Catalonia. That is why his party will continue to work for political autonomy: ‘’We have won and that gives us an enormous strength to push this project forward’’, he stated.

However, some political calculations say independence is not likely to be achieved. Apart from the above-mentioned legal disputes, another problem is the existence of political divergence in the pro-independence bloc itself. Even if negotiation has already started, it is rather difficult for the CUP and Together for Yes to make an agreement because of their different political programs and procedures. First, the CUP prefers an immediate declaration of independence to the 18-month secession scheduled by Together for Yes. Second, it declared it would follow a pro-independence path only if secessionist parties won more than 50% of the popular vote. Third, it does not back Mas’ presidency, but wishes the new Catalan President to be someone not related to corruption and economic cuts as Mas is.

By contrast, some people are confident about the possibility for the new government to find an agreement on the issue. To give an example, they look at the CUP’s politicians who said they could accept Mas in a 3-4 people-presidency. However, it is difficult that they will form such coral government because it would be rather inefficient to tackle problems and it would only create further chaos.

In conclusion, Catalonia’s independence seems to be quite an improbable outcome of last regional election, at least in the short-term future. A more open dialogue between Catalonia and Spain is probably going to be the main outcome of this election.

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Eleonora Monoscalco is an Erasmus student from Italy. She writes about the University of Bath and politics.

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