Monday, September 28, 2015

No homage from Catalonia

The Spanish region of Catalonia went to the polls yesterday, and gave a clear majority to parties promising unilateral secession. As a result, things are likely to get "interesting" over there.

How they got there is also interesting, and basicly boils down to utter mismanagement by the Spanish central government (whose governing party, the People's Party, is still full of Francoists). Think of Catalonia as a Spanish Scotland, with its own history, language, culture, and national identity. All those things were viciously suppressed under Franco's dictatorship, creating a history of persecution and a resentment of rule by Madrid. When Franco died, the region got some legally guaranteed autonomy and its own regional constitution and parliament, but as time went on, it wasn't enough. But when in 2006 they tried to get more autonomy through a revised regional constitution, that too was stomped on by the central government. Since then, the appetite for independence has been growing, and even people who want to remain part of Spain think that its a decision for Catalonia and support a referendum. Spain has rejected that option too, so instead the Catalonians have had an election, with parties offering a clear promise of independence, with or without Spanish approval. As in Scotland, Spain ran on fear, threatening that an independent Catalonia would be denied entry to the EU and that Barcelona would be kicked out of the Spanish football league. And as in Scotland, it has just made things worse. And the result is that pro-independence parties have a clear majority in parliament with 49.5% of the vote.

Its not entirely straightforward: those pro-independence parties are from different sides of the political spectrum and will need to hammer out a coalition deal. But assuming they manage that, they'll ask for independence or a referendum, Spain will refuse, claiming its illegal (and unlike the UK, refuse to make it legal), so they'll announce an intention to secede unilaterally. And what happens after that is anyone's guess. But as with Scotland, the idea of a central government denying a region that wants to leave the chance to decide, or worse, using military force to retain a region with a clearly-expressed desire for independence, is simply untenable for a modern democracy. And hopefully the Spanish government will realise that before it is too late.