Category Archives: General

Farewell, Juan Arza. May we never meet again.

It is with great sadness that we announce that Juan Arza, former correspondent on these humble pages, has stepped down as a member of Societat Civil Catalana. Not because he was caught lying. Or because he couldn't argue his way out of a bag. No, it's because as an activist for the PP, the poor chap couldn't stomach SCC's endorsement of a PSOE-Ciutadans coalition in Madrid.

When you think about it, about the only thing sadder and lonelier than being a member of SCC is being a member of the PPC. Bon vent, Juan, i barca nova. Oh and watch out for those seagulls. They can be vicious brutes.

Spain Elections #20D – My Prediction: new elections in 2016

Using the very handy 'Pactometre' on Catalan newspaper Ara's website, combined with the latest polling data (from Andorra's El Periòdic, cunningly disguised on this Spanish site as a music survey, also now available as a second poll on the Andorra site), I'm increasingly convinced that there will need to be new elections. Unless the polling data is way off (which I fully accept it could be), there is little chance that anyone will be able to form a government and get a president elected by the Congreso.

 

 

Latest poll data

(This is just one of the scenarios I've tried. Each scenario within the bounds of El Periòdic's polling – PP low/high, etc. – leads to likely new elections). Maybe Catalonia led the way again?

What's your prediction for Spain's elections?

Catalonia's 'solemn declaration' – has the Rubicon been crossed?

Two years back, I wondered if and when Catalonia would 'cross the Rubicon' and clearly position itself in contravention of Spanish law. Some sort of moment of illegality is essential in any process like this, just like during the Spanish Transition, to mark the break with one judicial and legal authority, and the beginning of a new one.

Yesterday, the two pro-independence groups in the Catalan parliament, with a majority of seats but not quite of votes, signed an agreement to present a 'solemn declaration' to the parliament for ratification next Monday, officially declaring the start of the formation of a new Catalan republic. Among the nine points in the declaration, the parliament will vote to approve that the Catalan institutions are no longer subject to the Spanish Constitutional Court, a tribunal it declares to be 'illegitimate' since its ruling against Catalonia's statute of autonomy in 2010.

Coup d'Etât

It was Mariano Rajoy, then leader of the opposition, who went around Spain collecting millions of signatures "contra los Catalanes", in order to apply pressure to a Constitutional Court decision. The decision to hear the case against the Estatut, described by Javier Pérez Royo in 2007 as a 'Coup d'Etât', was effectively the beginning of the current independence process. And it's Mariano Rajoy's immovable position which has precipitated yesterday's agreement.

Rajoy has been planning for a moment of illegality for some time. Indeed, he thought he had one in last year's 9N public consultation on independence, though that remains to be seen. This time, however, it looks more likely to stick. Which is why we had the uncharacteristically rapid response in the form of a televised statement, apparently agreed in advance with PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez.

Point of no return

So is this a point of no return? It looks like it could well be. Rajoy will now have to decide whether he treats it as a meaningless statement – "provocative", as he has already said, but meaningless all the same. Or whether he intends to take it seriously and respond just as seriously, by calling for sanctions of some sort against Catalonia.

And what will happen if Rajoy does push to suspend autonomy? That would be a first in Spain's current constitutional arrangement. And could it trigger a revolutionary situation in Catalonia? There are still many questions to answer.

Legalism and coercion: two problems with Span's approach to Catalonia

As I said in my post the other day, opponents of Catalan independence rarely frame their arguments in terms of the benefits of remaining part of Spain. On the contrary, they're limited to one main argument:

1 Catalan separatism is illegal; and therefore Catalan separatism is undemocratic.

Allow me to present an expanded version: in a constitutional democracy like Spain, the rule of law is paramount. Under the Spanish constitution, Catalonia separating from Spain would be illegal, as would holding a referendum on indepedendence without parliametary approval. Because the Catalan separatist parties insist on pursuing this path without permission and in contravention of the constitution, they are challenging the rule of law. Ergo, they and their supporters are undemocratic.

Read as many PP, PSOE, SCC, Cs, UPyD, central government, foreign office, etc briefings as you like: that is pretty much the only argument ever given against the movement in support of a Catalan referendum. And you can see why: if a thing is illegal and undemocratic, it's bad. It sounds like something from Russia or some ghastly place like that. It doesn't fit with our values.

It's also a nice, short soundbite. If the BBC, FT, Bloomberg, etc ask the Moncloa for a quote on Catalan independence, they only have to say "Mature democracy… rule of law… illegal… undemocratic". I mean, SCC's interminable PDFs pretty much write themselves (you'd almost think it was the same people writing them, but that's by the by). It's an argument which works in today's climate of churnalism, rolling news and short attention spans.

Apart from the fact that I think the Spanish government and their unionist friends should be making the case for staying part of Spain in a positive way, something really irritates me about the 'undemocratic' argument. I think it's because it's based on a combination of a cynically simplistic vision of what democracy is and how it can be practiced, and a highly restrictive and legalistic approach to the constitution which fails to accept the duty in a democracy of ensuring that the law doesn't actively cause political problems to arise. I think this says a lot about Spain in general and about its right wing in particular.

The main problem with this argument is that it reframes Spanish democracy as coercive rather than consensual. When a constitutional democracy acts legally to restrict basic or universal rights against the will of a section of its society, it acts coercively. This coercive nature actually fits with many policies promoted by the current government. From the attempted abortion law reform to the new gagging and anti-protest law to its treatment of Catalonia's right to self determination, you can see a clear pattern. I call this attitude coercive because while the argument is always given (and generally with a nasty smirk) that the constitution provides paths by which the Catalan government could theoretically hold a referendum, in practical terms none of these paths leads anywhere.

thebadPoll: Is Catalan independence now inevitable?

So now that the estelades have stopped waving in Diagonal and Via Laeitana, what will be the overall result of this march? Is Catalonia really a big step closer to independence now? Or is this a flash in the pan that'll recede when the economy picks up? Do you feel that a change has happened here? Or do you reckon it's just more of the same?

Cast your vote below or in the sidebar on the right. And as always, leave a comment below and explain your vote.

After the Sept 11 march do you feel that Catalan independence is now inevitable?

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Why I will join the demonstration on September 11

Cartell ANC

Next Tuesday, Catalonia's national day, will see thousands of people demonstrating in Barcelona, in support of Catalan independence. I will attend and support the demo on the basis of my support for the right of people to decide: the right to self-determination, especially after a retired Spanish army officer threatened us with violence last week; and support for the Catalan language, under attack in multiple Spanish regions governed by the PP.

Not all of Catalonia's problems would be solved by independence. Indeed, independence would probably bring about the existence of new problems we've not even considered yet. But that doesn't mean it's definitely not worth looking into. A fair distribution of the revenue generated by Catalonia seems impossible to achieve. Would we have better social cohesion and healthcare and so on if we had all the money raised here? Would my EHIC application be approved a lot faster, allowing me to get health insurance before it's too late? It's not a certainty but we'd be in a much better place to argue for it.

To defend the right to self-determination in the face of threats from past-it Spanish colonels strikes me as a perfectly reasonable thing to do on a Tuesday afternoon. See you in Plaça Catalunya at 18h.

More public money for Spain's useless banks

As predicted, Spain yesterday formally asked for a huge bailout to rescue its banking system. Most sources seem to agree that the sum will be about €100bn and will go directly to the banks, rather than, say, job creation. Meanwhile Spanish families who, hit by redundancies and public sector pay cuts, find trouble paying their mortgages, still get evicted without the debt being erased.

You'll find it very difficult to take out any new credit while you've got an active IVA. In fact, if you want to take out more than £500, you'll need to apply for written permission from your insolvency practitioner unless you're using it to pay utility bills.

Spain's ruling PP seems utterly perplexed by everything. PM Rajoy, almost totally invisible since he won last year's elections, is determined to push the message that the bailout comes 'no strings attached'. Never mind that we already have seriously nasty conditions of 'austerity' imposed on us by the PP and the PSOE opposition, my understanding is that the Spanish state will take on the responsibility of paying the interest on this €100bn No credit must pay loan. In effect, Spain goes from a situation where public spending was absolutely fine in 2007, within EU guidelines, and so on… to the situation we have now where services, pay, investment, etc have all been slashed and still the government ends up with a growing deficit thanks to the banks.

The alternative is to allow the banks to collapse. This would be an instantly shocking blow to the Spanish economy and I'm not sure how much protection could be given to personal savings. But it would wipe the slate clean and allow us to start again. The first thing to do then would be to call in the bean counters and investigate fraud and mismanagement in every Spanish bank. Then, arrest and jail time for any banking or government official found to have acted illegally.

But the most important action that's lacking is a total reform of the financial sector and the general economic reforms that this would imply. The idea that we might have to miss out on exaggerated profit lines and the phenomenal instability they always bring, should the financial sector up sticks and leave the Eurozone, suits me fine. They can all go and jump in the sea, as far as I'm concerned.

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