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Spain Fails to Pre-Empt Catalan Patriots in a Snap Election
Last Sunday 25th November Catalunya (Catalonia) went to the polls, not in the referendum on independence that we have been anticipating, but in a snap election called by the Spanish Government. The result was interesting to say the least but probably not what Spain was hoping to achieve.

This year Spain refused to consider a change in taxation policy, designed to prevent the haemorrhaging of money out of Catalunya, to the impoverishment of the region. As a result, Arthur Mas, leader of the CIU (right of centre party) and the head of a minority Government in Catalonia for the past two years, signalled his intention to hold a referendum on full independence, to protect the interests of the Catalan People.

Spain declared that such a move would be illegal under the Spanish constitution. Moreover, astonishing threats were made that the Catalans would be automatically ejected from the EU and the Euro Zone, if they became independent of Spain. However the Catalans remained unmoved by the outrage in Madrid and Arthur Mas still persisted with his plans for a Referendum, excepting in the less binding form of a “Consultation”. So, it would seem that Spain, fearing that the situation would get beyond their control, decided to challenge the Catalan CIU Government at the ballot box, before the promised referendum could become a reality.

In the event the International media seem to feel that the Spanish Government won the day last Sunday, as the CIU lost 12 of its seats. However the Spanish Government may fear rather that they have only won a pyrrhic victory, because the ERC have gained 11 seats. The ERC are our sister party in Catalunya. They are a left of centre party like Mebyon Kernow and have always been committed to the ideal of greater autonomy for the Catalan People. Rather than a defeat for the idea of independence therefore, this could indicate a hardening of attitudes in Catalunya. In real cross party terms, support for the pro-independence lobby amounts to a two thirds majority. All that is necessary therefore is for the pro-independence groups to form a national alliance and Spain’s goose could be effectively cooked.

This apparent attempt to manipulate the Catalans through pre-empting the democratic process bears comparison to the situation in Scotland, where the British Government have done a deal with the SNP to remove an option for greater autonomy, short of full independence. They probably calculate that most Scots would vote for a less extreme option and are trying to ensure that, faced with a choice of all or nothing, the Scottish electorate will blink at the last moment. They are playing poker with Scotland’s future. It shows their contempt for meaningful democracy. We should note how these two governments, old hands as they are, seek to change the discussion or move the contest onto ground of their own choosing, and to be ready for all manner of tricks should we ever reach that stage.

I gratefully acknowledge the help of Rod Toms of Mebyon Kernow and Sarah Medi of Plaid Cymru in the preparation of this article.
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Published on 27th November 2012.

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