Tag Archives: Politics

Latest poll data shows 50-point lead for independence in Catalonia

A follow-up from my recent post taking a quick and dirty look at polling numbers. As per usual, these polls are certainly not 100% reliable.

In this case, the poll [PDF] was carried out by GAPS for the pro-independence AMI. What that means is hard to say but they certainly don’t appear to have asked respondents about a possible ‘3rd way’ of increased self-government for Catalonia. This option, were it made available to voters, would reduce the weight of the independence vote. This is pointed out by another poll carried out by pro-federal newspaper El Periódico. Their poll suggests equal support for increased autonomy and independence, but confirms 80% support for some change in the relationship between Catalonia and Spain.

The other potentially misleading change in the GAPS poll is that it includes 16 and 17 year-olds and non-Spanish citizens. That is to say, everyone aged 16 up and registered legally with a town hall in Catalonia. This is not the same as other polls that have used the same electorate as vote in elections to the Catalan parliament, which is limited to Spanish citizens of 18 years and over registered with a Catalan town hall.

It’s difficult to say how much of a difference this would make: 16 and 17 year olds in, say, Olot are probably a lot (heh) more likely to vote yes to independence. But there aren’t that many of them. There are plenty more people of South American origin of all ages in BCN metro who are less likely to vote Yes.

All that said, this newest poll results in a 50% point lead for the Yes vote. Even an enormous margin of error would still leave a significant majority voting in favor of independence. Here are the numbers:

Numbers
1% = 54138,50
5413850 electorate*

YES 3167102 (58.5%)
NO 1044873 (19.3%)

Remove undecided and abstentions.

Total: 4211975 (1% = 42119.75)

Yes: 75%
No: 24%

*NB – I have just used the same number for the electorate as before because it would take me too long to work out the adjusted number. It doesn’t affect the percentages anyway.

My opinion: if a referendum were ever held (which doesn’t seem likely), it would naturally come down to the question. If a 3rd option of increased autonomy were included, this would successfully split the pro-independence vote. If it was a simple Yes/No question, the Yes response would win a massive victory.

I feel that this makes the likelihood of a referendum being held seriously unlikely. Spain will find it much easier to avoid negotiating with Catalonia if it prevents a vote from happening. Currently, the situation probably favored in Madrid is that Catalonia doesn’t hold a referendum but rather issues a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). This would seriously limit vital international support and enable Madrid to depict the Catalan government as acting undemocratically.

Maybe that’s why Ara doesn’t investigate the big corruption stories

I like the newspaper Ara. It’s a bit neo-liberal in its politics but it has some good writers. Ara has also been fairly clearly pro-independence since its inception, though with less of an obvious party affiliation than, say, El Punt Avui. It has provided a lot of interesting coverage of various campaigns and events that have occurred in the two years since I subscribed to it.

But there are a couple of things that irritate me about Ara. There are times when its neo-liberal approach unquestioningly supports ideas like wholesale reduction of the civil service or privatization of health services, and I’d like to see more contrasting opinions presented by the editorial board on these topics. It is clear from reader comments on the newspaper’s website that many other readers agree with me. The vast majority, in fact.

The second thing is that stories dealing with political corruption cases in Catalonia seem to get less coverage than they deserve. This is par for the course with the Catalan press, of course. In fact, most newspapers everywhere are pretty loyal to the state or their party allegiances, so this perhaps shouldn’t be such a surprise. This, along with suspected buying of views on youtube, its disappointing to see from a new media outlet which one might have hoped was more immune to party influence.

Then I noticed something funny. In the footer of the newspaper’s website, a logo for the Catalan government’s dept. of the presidency has appeared. It wasn’t there this time last year. And it wasn’t there in April 2013 either. But sometime in the summer, when Ara updated its portal, the Generalitat’s emblem was added to its footer.

What does this mean? Why does Ara have it? I think it’s to indicate that the paper receives funds from the government in exchange for promoting Catalan. Fair enough. Not sure the state should be funding the independent press like this, though. Could look bad.

Then I spotted something else: an Ara.cat user called Cuca Val noticed that comments mentioning certain people’s names are automatically withheld for moderation by the website. Cuca Val tested this filter a few times and declared victory: one name not allowed through the moderation filter is none other than that of Ferran Rodés (Cuca Val spelled it R-O-D-É-S to avoid the filter), founder and president of Ara. All of Cuca Val’s comments were deleted about an hour after this.

Why would Ara block all comments which mention its own president and founder? After all, it’s no secret that he’s the boss. Maybe it’s because people have been leaving cruel messages about him in the comments section? Happens all the time. Maybe he’s thin skinned

Or maybe it’s because he’s a Catalan oligarch with connections to some of the corruption cases Ara has a duty to report on. As anyone can find on Wikipedia, Ferran Rodés i Vilà is president of the Catalan government’s ‘Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia’ (CADS) – which spends part of its time giving the Catalan government advice on how to privatize its natural resources. He’s also VP at Havas Media, a large advertising concern, and he’s on the board of Acciona, the major Spanish infrastructures conglomerate. The same one which was awarded management of Barcelona’s water systems for the next 50 years. When he was part of the decision-making team for this privatization process (which should never have been allowed in the first place). Oh, and he lives in Switzerland. Like all good oligarchs.

So maybe, just maybe, Ara feels that with its hard-won state funding and its possibly-corrupt president and founder, it would be best to pay as little attention to the massive corruption cases which are ongoing here.

“Bárcenas is OK, but don’t you dare report this Cafè amb Llet story until they’re pulled into court”, I can almost imagine the boss shouting accross the cowed, pathetic newsroom of the Diari Ara.

Who are the fascists? #viacatalana

So who are the fascists? The hundreds of thousands of citizens who turned out today to peacefully call for Catalan independence, or the Falange and Democracia Nacional supporters who interrupted an event in Madrid?

This is, at least partly, the fruit of the PP’s campaign against social coherence in Catalonia. A mendacious call for unity while sowing division is the PP’s strategy, backed up by their mates in C’s.

Pact for Catalan government made; 2014 referendum agreed

Govern de Catalunya

CiU and ERC have agreed the terms for forming a government in Catalonia. The major detail behind the agreement is that a referendum on Catalan independence ‘will be held in 2014’. The pact comes almost as late as it could – the government needs to be formed by next Monday to prevent new elections being held.

Also agreed on are at least 2 new taxes designed to prevent (or more likely, reduce) further cuts in public spending (updated info below). A tax on bank deposits (my understanding is that it’s not financial transactions that are being taxed, but people or firms putting money in the bank – so it sounds like a regressive tax at the moment, but a tax rather than cuts, all the same), and a tax on sweet fizzy drinks. Both taxes are being criticised by the Spanish government. Other taxes being considered are a restored inheritance tax and a tax on the nuclear power plants. Impressively, CiU’s “no alternative” mantra looks to have been a smokescreen for pushing through the cuts it wanted. Funny, that.

The agreement on the referendum isn’t quite as firm as the newspaper headlines are making it sound. It depends on the socio-political situation in 2014 and agreement between the two party leaders that it’s the right time to go ahead. So there are plenty of opportunities for various CiU bosses to derail the process between now and then. It seems that the referendum was the sticking point that caused these negotiations to stretch on for weeks. This doesn’t bode well for CiU’s commitment to the consulta but it indicates that ERC’s Oriol Junqueras has stuck to his guns.

The negotiations are ongoing, apparently. Artur Mas will be confirmed as president on Friday.

UPDATE: Some more finance info from the news – tax will also be raised on large stores. The total extra revenues expected from all the new taxes is about €1bn. The Catalan government had previously claimed it needs to make €4bn of cuts next year. So we’re only a quarter of the way there. Oh, and the Spanish finance minister has said that the Generalitat doesn’t have the right to raise taxes by decree. Curiously, it does have the right to cut health spending and cancel taxes by decree. Hopefully, this will force the PP to investigate similar measures for the whole of Spain.

I’ll add that this is proof that demonstrations can have some effect. Unacceptable austerity and 2 general strikes led to an increase in support for leftwing groups in Catalonia. And the September 11 demo has led to a pact to hold a referendum on independence, however flimsy that pact might turn out to be. I think it’s important to recognise that this is not the work of Artur Mas at all. He tried to take advantage of a situation (he wasn’t running things in the background as the loony anti democrats would have you believe) and then voters punished him. The war against austerity is not won. It is more important, I still believe, to beat austerity than to hold a referendum. But the referendum must be held.

#11S and #14N helped bring this pact about. Those of us who supported either movement, or both, must keep the pressure on our politicians. For ordering cheap HCG drops, follow the link.

El Mundo’s corruption allegations – a November surprise

A few days ago, the pro-PP Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a story indicating that Artur Mas and Jordi Pujol were under suspicion of having secret Swiss bank accounts filled with money gained through corrupt practices linked to the Palau criminal case. The newspaper presented a police memo which suggested that these suspicions were already under court investigation.

In the days that have followed, Mas and Pujol have opened legal proceedings against the journalists behind the story and they’ve repeatedly denied the accusations. At the same time, they’ve asked the Spanish ministry of justice to explain how an apparently secret police report could have been leaked, and to identify who’s responsible. The judge investigating the Palau corruption case also made clear that he hadn’t been given any such police report. The following day, El Mundo accused the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s police force, of helping to destroy evidence linked to the case. The seo uk agency are also opening legal proceedings against the newspaper.

Yesterday, the ministry of justice informed the Catalan newspaper ARA that it couldn’t find the original police report but that it seemed to be at least partly based on several different unofficial reports that it has found. Meanwhile, the same ministry informed the EFE agency that it thought the rest of the info on the mysterious police report could well be sourced from internet rumours, and not from any formal investigation. The rumours, not hard to find online, contain several names linked with the Catalan government. Many of the other names implicated are of senior PP officials in various central or autonomous governments. El Mundo did not publish any of these names in its story.

El Mundo has a mixed record when it comes to political revelations. In the past it helped uncover corruption scandals and government involvement with the GAL terrorist group. More recently, it spent months insisting that ETA was involved in the 11M Madrid bombings, despite a lack of evidence. Historically, El Mundo’s targets for these exposés have been either politically neutral civil servants or political opponents of the PP.

Right now, it’s not clear how this story will develop. Is it possible that Mas and Pujol have actually received funds from corrupt public contract deals? Of course it is. But the absence of an actual police report on which the story depends, and irregularities in the info presented by El Mundo suggest that there is at least a chance that this might not join the ranks of El Mundo’s illustrious investigations. Some police sources apparently blame central government HQ for the leaks.

El Mundo most likely planned this story as a sort of late ‘October surprise’. Will it have any effect on the Catalan elections? I doubt it.

PP attacks judge after 25S case thrown out

The Spanish PP has directed a vicious attack against a judge. Again. The judge ruled no criminal offences had been committed by the organisers of the 25S protests in Madrid. A PP spokesman described him as “posh anarchist”, “indecent”, “intolerable”, “unacceptable” and “dreadful”. He also warned that the judge would be personally responsible for any ‘incident’ that happens to any MP.

I say again: a spokesman for the ruling party in Spain, hurling insults at a judge. This is not the sort of thing that should happen in a democracy. But in Spain, justice is cheap and when it goes against you, you insult and threaten the judge. All the more so, it seems, if you’re the government.

Meanwhile, the senior government official in the Comunidad de Madrid has called for the right to protest to be curtailed. It seems that she doesn’t approve of ‘misuse of public space’. She has been campaigning for this since the mid 2000s when thousands of Spaniards were regularly bused in by the PP to protest against the PSOE government. Oh, sorry… no, she hasn’t.

Oh and plus: finance minister Luís de Guindos was in London yesterday, looking for vultures investors to come to Spain and pick over what’s left of the country invest in (…what?). His talk was interrupted by protestors chanting ‘Spain for sale!’. But the worst came when he insisted that Spain wouldn’t need a bailout. The audience laughed in his face.

I’m off to San Francisco this weekend. A 6am flight tomorrow. Have a great weekend, everybody.

Elections this autumn for Catalonia

UPDATE: the elections will be held on November 25th.

The Catalan newspaper Ara is reporting that Artur Mas is about to call early elections, likely to occur on November 18 or 25 or December 2.

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy stated in parliament today that he doesn’t agree with the Catalan view that a new fiscal pact ought to be agreed. This was supposed to have been the subject of discussion in a meeting between Rajoy and Mas tomorrow morning in Madrid. It is believed that Mas could call the elections tomorrow, immediately after this meeting.

There is widespread expectation that these elections could take on the form of a referendum on Catalan independence from Spain. For this to happen, the governing CiU will have to form a national bloc with parties sympathetic to independence: ERC, ICV and SI. The Catalan federations of the two main Spanish parties, PP and PSOE will oppose independence, with support from Ciudadanos.

The groups in favour of independence appear to see that speed is of the essence now. They aim to benefit from the upswing in support for separatism seen at last week’s demonstration in Barcelona. They probably also fear the Spanish government invoking section 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows for central government to establish direct rule over autonomous communities seen to be in breach of the constitution.

Does this render independence any more likely? It’s hard to say. There can be no doubt that more people here are taking the question seriously. But CiU will have to negotiate a pact with leftwing ERC and ICV to have a chance of an absolute majority. But I get the feeling that there are plenty of Catalans who might balk at the last minute, either due to the uncertainty that independence might bring or because of their dislike for voting for any CiU-led coalition.

Because of the speed with which the independence movement has gathered pace and the possible sanctioning of Catalonia’s self-government by Madrid, these elections will likely prove to be the supreme test that separatism must pass if it is going to succeed.

What do you think will happen?

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.

Resolution for change

Happy May Day!

A few months ago, I resolved to take more of an active role in politics in Catalonia. I’m not planning to run for mayor or anything like that, but as a disenfranchised non-citizen my options are basically limited to joining and supporting political organisations. In a way, I had been heading in this direction for the 10 years I’ve lived here. I decided to join a political party for the first time since my arrival in 2002.

For me, a political party ought to be a broad church, but a united one. After experiences with arguably over-ideological groups in the UK, I needed to find an organisation which reflects a plurality of opinions with an agreed general direction. The federated nature of many parties here does seem to offer that sort of broadness (but let us not forget that many parties, including Labour, are federations).

What, then, is my political ideology? What are its main components and how important are they to me, relative to each other?

There should be little doubt from the posts on this blog that I’m a supporter of left wing politics. Marx continues to offer the best analysis of capital and socialism the best answer. Egalitarianism, a defence of workers’ rights, opposition to exploitation and colonialism: these are concepts that for me are tied-up inevitably with socialism. And at a time when capitalism is in such serious crisis, when political parties across Europe are eagerly tearing up the social contract we have enjoyed for decades, we have to be even more strident in our defence of rights and benefits that were hard-won and remain well-deserved.

Catalan independence: a tricky subject. I’ve been careful on this blog not to express a clear position on whether or not I support the concept of independence for Catalonia. I should think it’s clear that I’ve leaned in that direction but I’ve never been explicit about my opinion because I’ve genuinely never been sure of it. My ideological position here is that a majority of people in a geographical area who want to claim the right to self-determination should be allowed to do so. If this were the case in Catalonia, I would support a push for independence. I don’t believe that’s the case currently, but I do think that as time goes by, general ‘soft’ support for independence is increasing. I also think that independence from Spain would be almost impossible to achieve. But that’s a point for another day.

When we look at the challenges that face us in the coming years, many of them come down to poor custodianship of our planet. We need to embrace green policies wherever we can, and support alternative energies, public transport over personal vehicles, sustainable development and agriculture. I feel strongly that this beautiful planet can be protected, without the vast de-population supported by apocalyptic doomsday freaks. Better management of resources, for the good of all, can be achieved.

A few months ago, I joined a political party which I think represents my views. Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV-EUiA ‘Initiative for Catalonia Greens – United and Alternative Left’) is of the left, defends equality for all, supports the right to self-determination and promotes green policies. This blog will continue as it has always been: not much to read, but it’s always independent. That won’t change. But I’ve made a resolution for change and call on my friends to do the same.

Happy May Day!

Garzón found guilty: I still love this stupid country

Spanish magistrate* Baltasar Garzón was today found guilty in an illegal wiretap trial, one of three cases currently open against him. The Supreme Court has banned him from working as a judge for eleven years, effectively ending his career as a famed ‘crusader for justice’.

The sentence leaves Garzón the only significant loser in the Gürtel corruption case which he was prosecuting. The case involves businessman Francisco Correa and numerous members of the ruling Popular Party. Valencian PP leader Francisco Camps was acquitted on corruption charges a few days ago.

The reason all this is so awful is that no one has any real doubt that Camps, Correa et al are guilty as hell. The evidence is there. Garzón’s defence (and I admit only a very shaky understanding of the law here) is that the wiretaps, which listened in on conversations between indicted suspects and their personal injury lawyer in bergen county, were justified on the basis that the hmong lawyers themselves were managing money-laundering operations for their clients. But again, that’s not even what’s wrong.

What’s wrong in Spain is a determination in a large part of the ruling class to stop anyone from challenging their corrupt way of running the country. The PP and the PSOE have both been accused of significant political corruption (though I think it’s fair to say that the most shockingly extravagant cases usually involve the PP). The courts are highly politicised and have accepted private prosecutions against Garzón (a poppinjay and ass as ever there was) which would have been dismissed without a thought in most countries.

But of course, Spain is not most countries. Just a few years ago, foreign journalists were impressed by the mydefence forward-looking example that Spain was setting for Europe. Garzón, social legislation, a seemingly stable economy with impressively low deficits… it almost seemed as if Spain had managed to get something right.

All this has been a great lesson for me… perhaps one of the most important I needed to learn in my journey towards becoming a Spaniard. This is not a country with a great history of democracy or getting things right. And the left here is generally even more inept than the right. And I love this country more every day, even though I know it’s a tough place which will displease me endlessly with its stubborn refusal to get things right. And I’m sticking by it. And I’ll do something to try to make it better: however Sisyphean a life’s task that might be.

==

*Via email, the troublesome nomenclature of magistrate/judge/prosecutor has been pointed out. For the purposes of a nicer text, I’m going to stick with what I’ve already got. But yeah, he’s a judge.