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The International Writers Magazine: Catalonia

The Ace Card in Spain
• James Skinner
Elections have taken place in the autonomous region of Catalonia, the votes have been counted and the end result is a political mess. The European and international media have been reporting on the campaign and are now busy compiling said results with dozens of hypothesis on a future regional government that will obviously have repercussions both in Spain and the European Union.

Catalonia Regions

No need to elaborate except to confirm that although the main driving coalition party (4 members) known as the ‘Junts pel si’ (‘Together for the ‘Yes) in favor of independence lead by Artur Mas (CiU – right wing nationalists) together with Oriol Jorquera (ERC – Left wing republican), Union Democratica de Cataluña (UDC – Christian Democrat) and Moviment d’Ezquerés (MES – another Christian Democrat of sorts) obtained the largest number of votes but were not enough to form a government. Their only outlet is to now negotiate a pact with non-other than ‘Candidatura d’Unitat Popular’ (CUP – United Popular Front) that are an extreme radical left group of anarchists that demand a total upheaval of the whole of the Spanish Constitution; a sort of ‘Couldn’t we start again please’ (Jesus Christs Superstar) party.

Meanwhile, both mainstream parties, Socialists (PSOE) and Conservatives (present government PP) took a huge battering as did the Podemos lot (‘We Can’). The real surprise came from young good looking Albert Rivera’s group ‘Cuidadants’ (Citizens, Centre-either-way party) that came in second. So there you have it, a cocktail of conservative-nationalists, republicans and anarchists all ready to literally upset Spain’s apple cart.

One must ask: Why has all this happened? Why is Spain, apart from the horrendous financial crisis that hit most of the world and regardless of the present international conundrums, facing such a very dangerous uncertain political future than many pundits describe as having returned to the 1930s of the previous century?

Although I may be repeating part of history explained in earlier essays, I’ll back track to the end of the Franco era and build up to the present state of affairs.

The 40 year dictatorship ended on the 20th of November, 1975. Contrary to predictions of a new revolt, Spain kicked off a planned transition period that would enable a smooth return to democracy. It included the design and implementation of a new Constitution. This was approved and a nationwide referendum consolidated it on the 29th of December, 1978. The main points included the restoration of the Monarchy with Juan Carlos I as King and Head of State, the establishment of 17 autonomous states with their own statutes and parliament, and a move towards free elections including the formation of political parties that had been banned for over four decades. However, because the European Commission had recognized that, apart from the main national languages, there were six other semi-official languages that included Catalan, Basque and Galician. The aforementioned regional statutes included them as co-official languages. The seeds, or should I say the ‘ace card’ had been planted for the future independence moves of these 3 regions and began the day after the approval of the same. Nationalist parties were formed in order to ensure that the statues were strictly complied with.

As the years went by new regional and parallel legislation was implemented that added culture, geography and history, especially to the now established bi-lingual education system. The political and financial demands for more autonomy also grew. Although the Basques over the past decades were plagued with the continued violence of ETA (the terrorist movement) the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), that always condemned the atrocities, and now Bildu (ETA’s political arm), have managed to obtain a great deal of concessions from Madrid and practically run their own show. They still maintain their long term intent to push for an independent state although at the moment it is status quo. Galicia, on the other hand has been able to implement the Galician language to the extent that its use is now compulsory in education and governmental establishments. However, there has been a change in the political framework during the town council elections with a complete swing over to a newly formed radical nationalist left party ‘Mareas’ (Tides) that has vowed to seek independence on similar lines to the Basques and the Catalans. Their mandate is based on ‘Podemos’ (We Can) style programs. The Regional government is still in the hands of the conservatives (PP) but that could swing in elections due in 2016. Now we come to the real trouble maker – Catalonia.

Catalonia protest Similar to the other two regions, the first item on the agenda by the then ruling CiU Nationalist Party under Jodi Pujol was the introduction of what was known as ‘linguistic immersion’, i.e. imposition of the Catalan language. The next move was to seek more autonomy similar to the Basques but with a difference. For over 20 years, the ruling CiU government instilled in the Catalan population that they were really different to the rest of Spain and that they were in effect a totally different country.

By the time the national politicians in Madrid realized it, it was too late. During the socialist government (PSOE) of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero the Catalans were re-designing the statues that in effect were defying the basic Spanish Constitution. These went before the Spanish Constitutional Court for revision to check on their legality.

In the meantime Zapatero had more or less said from the beginning that whatever the Catalans came up with would be approved in the Spanish parliament. The courts that took four years to deliberate confirmed that they were illegal. It was too late. The Catalans had begun to go their own way until the present day. A completely new generation believed that 300 years ago they were another nation and therefore were not Spanish at all but of another breed of humans. Thus the present day feeling amongst the young Catalan pro-independence population.

The tragedy is that this is far from the truth. Over the past few years the regional governments have distorted their history, accused Spanish governments of plotting against their freedom and above all have managed to impose the Catalan language to such an extent that fines are imposed on industry and businesses if the language is not used as main stream in their daily affairs. They’ve even set up independent Catalan embassies around the world for no other reason than to promote their supposed national identity.

Coming back to the elections, including all the national and international warnings that an independent Catalonia would literally go down the drain, the scenario at the moment is uncertain. As the press headlines have stated, Catalonia’s independence party has obtained the largest of votes but the Catalans have indirectly voted ‘No’ to severance from the main state – Spain.
Catalan flag

By the way, the newlyweds will take two or more months to form a government. By that time Spain will have had its General Elections. That is another witch’s cauldron about to be brewed.

One thing is certain. Sr. Artur Mas’ days are numbered. He is now a ‘has been’ political figure having failed to pull off majority votes in the elections.

Before I end, there is one bit of good news. The remaining heads of ETA, David Pla and Iratxe Sorzábal, at large for years were finally arrested in France thus officially ending the terrorists’ reign of terror.

See you next month.

© James Skinner. October 2015

Spain Awaits a Crisis - Autumn 2015
James Skinner

We are in the center of a hurricane waiting for the fury of high speed winds to hit as the storm moves away. This is precisely the case of the Spanish political arena at this moment in time.

The Galician Parallax by James G Skinner
will be published by Troubador 28th November
ISBN: 978-1784624590 .

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