Catalan referendum, explained: What’s behind the push to break from Spain?

Posted by DanielS on Monday, 02 October 2017 08:32.

Update: CNN, “Catalonia referendum result plunges Spain into political crisis”, 2 Oct 2017:

Barcelona (CNN)Spain is facing a political and constitutional crisis after Catalans voted in favor of independence in a contested referendum that descended into chaos when police launched a widespread and violent crackdown.

The Catalan government said it had earned the right to split from Spain after results showed 90% of those who voted were in favor of a split.

But amid an unexpectedly harsh response from Spanish police, turnout was only around 42%. The Catalan health ministry said 893 people were injured in the clashes Sunday as riot police raided polling stations, dragged away voters and fired rubber bullets.

The Catalan President Carles Puigdemont denounced the police crackdown as the worst violence Catalonia had seen since the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and demanded the withdrawal of Spanish national forces from the region.

Majority votes for split

Of 2.2 million ballots counted, about 90% were in favor of independence, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull told a news conference shortly after midnight. Turnout was about 42% of the 5.3 million eligible voters, authorities said later Monday.

Turull said more people would have voted had it not been for the Spanish police suppression. Up to 770,000 votes were lost as a result of the crackdowns at polling stations, the Catalan government estimated.

Spain’s national government in Madrid has ardently resisted separation. In the runup to the vote, national authorities seized ballot papers, voter lists and campaign material. Thousands of extra national police were sent to the region and high-ranking Catalan officials involved in organizing the referendum were arrested.

CNN, “Catalan referendum, explained: What’s behind the push to break from Spain?”, 27 Sept 2017:

(CNN)Catalonia’s separatist government is adamant it will go ahead with a referendum on October 1 to decide if the region should split from Spain, despite the country’s highest court banning the vote.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has outlawed the plebiscite, and the national administration in Madrid asserts that any such vote would be unconstitutional.

The dispute between the regional government in Barcelona and the Spanish government has become increasingly bitter in recent weeks, with several high-ranking Catalan officials involved in organizing the referendum arrested, and mass protests in the region’s capital of Barcelona and other towns.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump weighed in on the debate, casting doubt on recent polling suggesting a “Yes” vote will win and saying that he is for “a united Spain.”
“I really think the people of Catalonia would stay with Spain. I think it would be foolish not to.”

The vote risks plunging the country into one of its worst political crises since the end of Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship four decades ago.


Hundreds of thousands have attended rallies to demand their region break from Spain in recent weeks.

The basics…

Catalonia is a wealthy region in Spain’s northeast. One of 17 autonomous provinces, it has its own regional government—or Generalitat—which already has considerable powers over healthcare, education and tax collection.

But it pays tax to Madrid, and pro-independence politicians argue that complex mechanisms for redistributing tax revenue are unfair on wealthier areas.


Catalonia has long complained that its revenues subsidize other parts of Spain. The region hosts some 16% of the Spanish population and much of the country’s manufacturing and finance sectors.

Catalan nationalists argue that they are a separate nation with their own history, culture and language and that they should have increased fiscal independence.

How did we get here?

The long-running dispute goes back to the brutal years under Franco, whose dictatorial regime repressed Catalonia’s earlier limited autonomy. It wasn’t until four years after his death in 1979 that the region gained full autonomy.

In 2006, the Spanish government backed Catalonia’s calls for greater powers granting “nation” status and financial control to the region.

But it was one step forward and two steps back four years later, when that status was rescinded by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that while Catalan is a “nationality,” Catalonia is not a nation itself.


Separatist supporters demonstrate in front of the Catalan high court building on Thursday in Barcelona.

Catalonia’s campaign to break away has been gaining momentum since 2010, when Spain’s economy plunged during the financial crisis. It was further galvanized by the Scottish referendum for independence in 2014, which ultimately saw voters opt to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Catalonia held a symbolic poll in 2014, in which 80% of voters backed complete succession—but only 32% of the electorate turned out.

 

What’s behind this latest drive?

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has fought to establish an independent Catalan state since taking office last January, and called the referendum in June.

A month later, the Generalitat approved a law allowing it to formalize plans for the October plebiscite.

But it would appear support for an autonomous Catalan state has fallen in recent months, according to a June poll conducted on behalf of the regional government. The survey indicated some 41.1% were for independence, down from 44.3% in March.

Where does Madrid stand?

Firmly against Catalan independence, the central government has vowed to shut down what it says is an “illegal” referendum. It has the authority to do this, under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution.

Spain’s PM has called on separatists to stop the “escalation of radicalism and disobedience.”

Madrid asked the Constitutional Court to suspend Catalonia’s referendum law, which had paved the way for the ballot. Spain’s high court is now investigating whether the regional government has breached the constitution.

Catalan President blasts Madrid for ‘illegal’ referendum raids

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who leads the conservative Popular Party, has consistently argued that Catalonia cannot leave Spain because the country is indivisible, according to the 1978 constitution.

“What we have seen in Catalonia is an attempt to liquidize national sovereignty,” he said in a recent address posted to his official Twitter account, adding that all Spaniards should have a say in what their country looks like.

Police, acting under a court order, seized almost 10 million papers relating to the upcoming ballot at a warehouse in an industrial estate near Barcelona last week. Voter lists, signs and paperwork for counting votes were also confiscated.

Additional state police have been deployed to the region in the days leading up to the ballot to maintain order and prevent the vote taking place, Reuters reported, citing the Spanish Interior Ministry.

The Spanish government has moored three ships, one pictured, to the dock of Barcelona’s port to house police reinforcements ahead of the proposed but illegal referendum.

Despite these actions, Puigdemont says he intends to defy Madrid’s orders and has called upon Catalan citizens to “defend democracy against a repressive and intimidating regime” by going to the polls to vote as planned.

And sports stars are weighing in?

The referendum row is a divisive subject across Spain, but some homegrown heroes have made their feelings clear.

Barcelona’s football club has backed the referendum.

“FC Barcelona in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defence of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights,” it said in a statement posted to its official Twitter account.

Manchester City (and former Barcelona) manager Pep Guardiola has also joined the pro-independence campaign, showing his support for Catalonia at separatist demonstrations.

But others have been somewhat reluctant to reveal their thoughts.

World no.1 men’s tennis player Rafael Nadal chose a different approach when asked about the upcoming vote.

“I can’t imagine Spain without Catalonia and Catalonia without Spain. I don’t want to see it,” he said at a recent press conference in Prague, according to Bloomberg.

Nadal added that he hoped the two sides would come together to work things out: “We don’t want fights, we don’t want problems I believe we are much better together and stronger.”

What happens if the vote goes ahead?

It’s unclear at this point—but Madrid insists there will be consequences if the referendum goes ahead.

And if it does get as far as a vote, those who do enter the voting booth will see a single question: Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state, in the form of a republic?

Should the Electoral Commission declare victory for the “Yes” campaign, Puigdemont has said the Generalitat will declare independence within 48 hours, Reuters reported, while a

“No” vote would likely spark an early election.


Update:

Reuters, “Spanish police storm polling station in Catalonia independence vote”, 1 Oct 2017:

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spanish riot police smashed their way into a polling station in Catalonia on Sunday as they sought to shut down a banned independence referendum that has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis for decades.

They burst into a polling station, in a town in Girona province, minutes before Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was due to vote there. They shattered glass panels to force open the door as voters, fists in the air, sang the Catalan anthem.

Police with riot shields also jostled with hundreds of voters outside one station at a school in Barcelona, the Catalan capital, as the crowd chanted “We are people of peace!” Armoured vans and an ambulance were parked nearby.

The referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s central government, has raised fears of street violence as a test of will between Madrid and Barcelona plays out.

The Catalan government had scheduled voting to open at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) at around 2,300 designated stations, but Madrid said on Saturday it had shut more than half of them.

Voting started at some sites in the region of 7.5 million people, which has its own language and culture and is an industrial hub with an economy larger than that of Portugal. Leader Puigdemont changed plans and voted at a different station after the police action, the regional government said.

People had occupied some stations with the aim of preventing police from locking them down. Organisers smuggled in ballot boxes before dawn and urged voters to use passive resistance against police.

In a school used in a voting station in Barcelona, police in riot gear carried out ballot boxes while would-be voters chanted “out with the occupying forces!” and “we will vote!”.

 

Reuters, “Spain reluctantly forced to act in Catalan vote, official says”, 1 Oct 2017:

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The Spanish government was reluctantly forced to send in national police to stop a referendum on Catalan independence that had descended into farce, the top Spanish official in the northeastern region said on Sunday.

The aim of the National Police and Civil Guard police who descended on polling stations in Catalonia was to seize election materials and they were not targeting people wanting to vote, Enric Millo, the Madrid government’s representative in Catalonia, told a news conference.

“We have been made to do something we didn’t want to do,” he said.

Referring to the Catalan government’s announcement on Sunday that people would be allowed to vote at any polling station they found open in the region, Millo said: “It’s all a sham, a farce. It is the first time in history that the rules of the game are changed 45 minutes before the start of voting.”

 



Comments:


1

Posted by Catalan referendum: police fire rubber bullets on Sun, 01 Oct 2017 06:39 | #

Telegraph, update,  1 Oct, midday:

Police in riot gear fire rubber bullets at pro-independence activists

38 people who were injured in a police crackdown

Ballot boxes seized by police in referendum banned by Madrid

Madrid appeals for “cooperation and respect”


Spanish riot police fired rubber bullets and seized ballot boxes from polling stations in Catalonia on Sunday as thousands flooded the streets to vote in an independence referendum banned by Madrid.

As the vote officially opened, scenes of chaos erupted as police began moving in to prevent people from casting their ballots, forcing their way into one sports centre in the town of Girona where the region’s separatist leader was due to vote.

 


2

Posted by Catalonia vote puts Spain into politcal chaos on Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:12 | #

Update: CNN, “Catalonia referendum result plunges Spain into political crisis”, 2 Oct 2017:

Barcelona (CNN)Spain is facing a political and constitutional crisis after Catalans voted in favor of independence in a contested referendum that descended into chaos when police launched a widespread and violent crackdown.


3

Posted by Regional Pres: Catalonia to declare independence on Wed, 04 Oct 2017 03:06 | #

Independent, “Catalonia will declare independence in days, says region’s president”, 4 Oct 2017:

Carles Puigdemont calls for international help to solve the crisis

Catalonia’s President has claimed the autonomous region will declare independence from Spain “at the end of this week or the beginning of next”.

Carles Puigdemont told The BBC that it would be “an error which changes everything”, if the Spanish government were to take control of the region’s administration, although he admitted that there had been no contact with Madrid. The central government has described the referendum as illegal.

Appealing for international mediation to help solve the crisis, he told the corporation that he disagreed with the European Commission’s statement that it was internal matter for Spain.
Read more

- Is Barcelona safe for tourists?
- How Catalonia’s bid for autonomy compares with other regions
- Catalonia stages general strike after police crackdown on referendum
- Man ‘shot in the eye with rubber bullet in Catalonia’

Speaking shortly before a blistering attack on Catalonia’s politicians by Spain’s King Felipe, Mr Puigdemont said his government would “act at the end of this week or the beginning of next”.

In a rare nationwide address King Felipe launched a blistering attack Catalonia’s pro-independence regional government, accusing the secessionists of “breaking democratic principles” and trying to split up Spain.

“Thanks to their irresponsible behaviour, those [Catalan] authorities have put the social identity of Catalonia and all Spain at risk,” he said.

“They have shown contempt for the affection and feelings of solidarity which have united and will unite all Spaniards.”

 


4

Posted by South African secessionist movement ignored on Fri, 06 Oct 2017 14:14 | #

South Africa has its own secessionist movement which is being ignored: a White secessionist movement (and is it ever necessary):

Ken Gividen, Karin Smith and Chas Edward Lincoln discuss


5

Posted by Guessedworker on Fri, 06 Oct 2017 16:44 | #

Catalonia has explained to the theorists of globalism, whoever they may be, that regionalisation, as a means of dismembering the nation state and offering up hitherto sovereign peoples ... ethnic groups ... to a supranational, technocratic form of “governance” does not necessarily work.  If the region generally describes an ethnic group in its own right, even where that group is defined by culture and language more than by distinctive genes, then the deconstructive process proves counter-productive, for a more authentic and powerful identity emerges, and will fight harder for its voice, its rights, its interests.

From the supranational standpoint, the ideal region would be like those proposed by Berlin back in 2006:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1527886/New-EU-map-makes-Kent-part-of-same-nation-as-France.html

The Conservative Party fears that the directive, currently passing through the European Parliament, could be the first step of a Berlin-inspired masterplan to create a United States of Europe divided, not into nation states, but instead a series of “trans-national” regions, the templates for which have already been drawn up.

Under the changes, those living in Kent and East Sussex would find themselves not inhabitants of Britain, but the TransManche region, where their fellow citizens would not be their English-speaking neighbours but the French-speaking population of northern France.

North of the TransManche would be the North Sea region, taking in all of eastern England and vast areas of Scandinavia, Germany and the Low Countries.

Western Britain and Ireland would become the Atlantic region, a huge zone that also takes in parts of France, Spain and Portugal.

Perhaps most bizarre would be the Northern Periphery region, lumping together the population of north-west Scotland with their very distant cousins in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland and Iceland.

Draft outlines of these regions have already been drawn up as part of a long-running EU project called Interreg, which has created the areas to foster cross-border- co-operation on issues such as tourism, trade, health and the environment

Interreg, btw, is still a live programme.  Wiki states that “It has a budget of EUR 10.1 billion, which represents 2.8% of the total of the European Cohesion Policy budget.”  EFTA members also have to contribute.


6

Posted by Catalan secessionist leaders jailed on Tue, 17 Oct 2017 20:07 | #

Telegraph, “Catalonia pleads with EU to intervene after independence leaders jailed over protests”, 17 Oct 2017:

The Catalan government on Tuesday issued an urgent plea for help to the European Union after two independence leaders were jailed as part of a sedition investigation, as protesters took to the streets to demand the “political prisoners” be freed.

Jordi Turull, spokesman for the Catalan government, said the imprisonment of the two men over September protests in Barcelona was “an attack on fundamental rights” that the European Union had a duty to protect.

Jordi Sanchez, head of the Catalan National Assembly, and Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural, were remanded in custody without the possibility of bail on Monday night by a National Court judge investigating alleged crimes of sedition, which carries a prison term of up to 15 years.

 



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