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After the Elections in Catalonia

Article publicat al bloc del Col.lectiu Emma How things stand in Catalan politics after November 25    Dozens of foreign correspondents converged on Barcelona to cover the Catalan elections of […]

Col·lectiu Emma 02/12/2012

Article publicat al bloc del Col.lectiu Emma

How things stand in Catalan politics after November 25
 Dozens of foreign correspondents converged on Barcelona to cover the Catalan elections of November 25. On the whole, international media have provided a fair account of events and a reasoned assessment of the various issues at play. For most neutral observers, the ballot results certify that the state of opinion expressed in the massive pro-independence rally of September 11 is here to stay and that it has now become a definite political option.
 As is becoming usual, the same facts have been given a different spin by the Spanish media. Aligning themselves with the views of the political class in Madrid, most commentators have placed the accent on the setback suffered by Catalan President Artur Mas. This has been portrayed as a defeat of the secessionist agenda –and yet the Spanish government is adamant in denying Catalans the right to say how they feel about independence in a referendum that it is afraid to lose.
 Although Mr. Mas did not get the solid majority he was seeking, his coalition remains by far the leading force in Catalan politics. His new government will have a harder time running the affairs of a complex society in a time of crisis, but that wouldn't have been made much easier by an absolute majority in Parliament. And for once the chief opposition party is not a hostile entity bent on undermining the administration's every move. These two forces –Mr. Mas's Convergència i Unió and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, led by Oriol Junqueras, a relative newcomer– will need to reach difficult compromises on many issues, but the essential part of the deal will be something that they –and others– basically agree upon: drawing a road map for the transition to full sovereignty for the Catalan people.

The people's right to decide about their future as an independent nation was the central issue in this election. An unprecedented participation –close to 70 per cent of eligible voters– has produced a more accurate picture of where Catalan society stands on this, as two big unknowns have been largely dispelled.
 First, the extent of the unionist vote. In spite of massive backing from the national media and after an unscrupulous campaign staged by the political forces in Madrid and echoed by their client parties in Catalonia, that option has obtained just over one third of seats in Parliament.
 Second, it had been predicted that many of the longtime supporters of Mr. Mas's right-of-center party wouldn't go along with the more radical line he was taking. In fact, the middle-class backbone of Catalan society has renewed its support to a very large extent –with over 1.1 million votes.
 The more conservative layers of society have come to realize that –in the words of Jordi Pujol, the elder statesman of Catalan politics– “in the present financial, political and institutional conditions imposed by Spain, Catalonia is not viable”. On this, they have joined others that had traditionally been more explicit in demanding wider freedom for Catalonia. With exceptional results: the aggregate vote for parties favoring the Catalans' right to decide has won the day by almost a two-thirds majority.
 Perhaps the main message sent by voters in this election is that setting off on the road to independence is not the exclusive project of one party or one leader, but the shared aspiration of a majority of the people. Catalans have now entrusted their leadership with finding a way beyond a status quo within Spain which they consider unsustainable. And if this election's results are read as an early proxy for the inevitable referendum on becoming a new state in Europe, it can be said that the process leading to Catalan statehood is already on its way.