By Peter H. Salus
No, this isn’t about George Orwell, though the situation is Orwellian.
Concerning Catalonia (according to Eurostat and the Bank of Spain): 16% of Spain’s population live in Catalonia, and it produces: 25.6% of Spain’s exports , 19% of Spain’s GDP, and receives 20.7% of Spain’s foreign investment.
So, in 2010 (at the instigation of the rightist Popular Party), the Supreme Court in Madrid rescinded several provisions of the constitution, relating to Catalonia’s “semi-autonomous” status. After a number of protests, Catalonia held a referendum last October First. The central government stated that holding a referendum was illegal and sent in the Guardia Civil. Their violence was captured on many cell phones and by international reporters. The result was a 43% turnout (though an unknown number of ballot boxes were confiscated by the troops) of which 93% were said to be for independence.
The government said their constitution did not provide for this and the courts ordered the arrest of about a dozen Catalonian politicians. Several were already in Brussels, so European Arrest Warrants were issued (these have since been withdrawn). All but two of the other arrestees have been bailed.
Madrid disbanded the Catalonian government and called for a new election, for 21 December.
On that day, 4.5 million voters cast their ballots, 86% of those eligible.
And … Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been snubbed.
There are 135 seats in the Catalonian parliament, with seven parties vying for them. Three of the parties are clearly pro-independence (Together for Catalonia, the Republican Left, and Popular Unity, which is also anti-EU). The Citizens, the Socialists and the Popular Party are pro-Spain. The “In Common We Can” party is in the middle.
“It seems that pro-independence parties have big chances to keep the absolute majority of seats in the Catalan parliament, in the new parliament which in the face of repression, in the face of having candidates in jail and in exile, after all we have been through these last weeks it seems to us a very, very good result,” Jordi Sole, an MEP for Catalonia’s ERC said.
The three pro-independence parties won 70 of the 135 seats. The Citizens Party became the largest bloc with 35 seats. Rajoy’s PP took four, fewer than the seven it won in 2015.
Carles Puigdemont, the sacked president of the Spanish region of Catalonia has said that tonight’s result “shows that the Catalan people have won the right to be listened to”. He told a news conference in Brussels that the Catalan regional election was a victory for separatist parties “which no-one can dispute”.
Just what Rajoy’s next move will be is unclear.