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Offline VivaWikileaks

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Catalan independence poll: what happens next?

Guardian readers in Spain on both sides of the Catalan independence debate on the unofficial independence poll - and what they think should happen next
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  • James Walsh and Guardian readers

theguardian.com, Tuesday 11 November 2014 12.44 GMT


People wait for their turn beneath ‘Gegants’, giants figures depicting Catalan kings, queens and traditional figures, to cast their vote at a polling station on November 9, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Over 2.3 million Catalans took part in a symbolic independence poll on Sunday. The poll, watered down after exhaustive legal wrangling with the Spanish government, was not an formal vote, but pro-independence supporters hope that it will increase the pressure on Spain’s government to allow one.

The poll’s validity has been dismissed by the Spanish government, with the justice minister calling it “a day of political propaganda” in an official statement.
Here are a selection of views from Guardian readers in Spain and Catalonia, on the vote itself and and what its likely impact on the constitutional process will be.

“The next days and months will be very interesting”
I voted yesterday, as did most of my family here. Everyone I spoke to was very clear that this was not an official legally binding referendum and that, due to Madrid’s refusal to even contemplate a discussion on this matter, there hadn’t been a balanced public debate about the pros and cons of leaving or staying in Spain. We know that if / when there is a legal referendum the turn out will be higher and the margin of difference between those in favour or against will be much smaller.

The article is not very effective at making this point, but there is a quote from the Catalonian president Artur Mas: “Mas said his government would now push to hold an official referendum” which makes it very clear.

The call for independence goes back years, there were a lot of emotional scenes yesterday with people in their late 80s and 90s who had fought against and been imprisoned or went into exile during Franco’s fascist dictatorship. When I arrived in Catalonia from England I very quickly learned that people here were reluctant citizens of Spain but realised that after Franco’s death it was better to have a democracy of some kind, the alternative could have been a continuation of the military regime under another leader. This why even in Catalonia people voted in favour of that constitution. It was difficult to design a constitution that balanced both the democratic aspirations of a Spain that wanted to become integrated into Europe and the very influential remnants of Franco’s regime.

Things went relatively smoothly over the next few years of democracy but this started to change with Aznar’s campaign to become president of Spain and to get re-elected. He and his henchman Acebes started a campaign of Spanish nationalist fervour that included strong criticism of Catalonia and the use of the Catalan language. This attitude has been continued by Rajoy, his succesor.
This then bolstered feeling of Catalan pride and created an ever increasing call for independence. The main political parties here didn’t latch on to this until September 11th 2012 when over a million people filled the streets of Barcelona organised by non-political organisations. It was only then that Artur Mas and his realised that he would ignore this at his own peril. The following September a human chain stretching from Catalonia’s borders with France in the North to its southern border with the Valencia region.

Catalan politicians, in their majority, have recognised and taken on board the demands of these people, their people.

Rajoy’s Madrid government hasn’t known how to do anything but say NO. They haven’t even attempted to convince Catalan people that they would be better off remaining in Spain, maybe they can’t think of any good arguments!!!. Generally people and politicians in Catalonia have stopped promoting independence, they don’t need to. Everytime a Madrid politician speaks they seem to create more Catalan independents.

My wife and parents-in-law wouldn’t have contemplated voting for an independent Catalonia three years ago, but yesterday they wanted their voice to be heard. The next days and months will be very interesting. I suspect that Rajoy is just hoping to survive to the next general elections which his party will almost certainly lose.

valleyco

“The outcome of an eventual referendum could be close”

I live in southern Catalunya. The result of what was effectively a straw poll, not even an opinion poll, was predictable based on past demonstration turn outs including a human chain across the country the year before last. It has great propaganda value. But how accurately will it reflect the outcome of a possible referendum which, at the earliest, will not take place until after the next General Election? I am not sure. (Polling is not over by the way - you can still vote at the nearest Catalunya Government office, though I suspect most of those intending to vote have already done so.)

The Madrid government made it as difficult as possible to participate. In my town those from outlying areas, provided they had transport available, had to travel several kilometers to the centre in order to vote. This probably disenfranchised many elderly or disabled people. It also likely meant that pro-independence supporters, pretty fervent in my experience, were more inclined to bother voting than the less demonstrative anti camp who probably felt not so compelled as it was not a proper, decisive election.

A nationwide opinion poll would probably be a better reflection of the mood at the moment and it will be interesting to see how this exercise influences this opinion. It could harden attitudes in both directions, meaning the outcome of an eventual referendum could be close.

My observation of the pro camp is that they are more emotionally driven than practicality driven and I don’t think people have yet been presented with a convincing hard-nosed economic case for separation.

If the indications are that the ordinary voters of Spain don’t object to a independence vote then why not have one. The Basques and the Galicians, definitely some areas of Valencia, and maybe the Andalusians, would vote in favour as it would fuel the case for their own independence aspirations. The last thing Rajoy and the PP wants of course.

Personally, I dislike the notion of Catalunya nationalists grabbing more wealth for themselves (which will inevitably filter up to the elite) and leaving the poorer regions like Extremadura, which doesn’t have the same infrastructure and economic advantages, like proximity to France and a major Mediterranean port, in the lurch. If the rest of Spain goes down the pan and an independent Catalunya thrives there are possibly serious implications.
SocraticJibes

“The only way to find out what people really want is to have a proper referendum”

All of my neighbours went out to vote, and even those of us who got there in the afternoon had to queue to vote, so I think it depends on where you live [whether the turn-out was substantial].

The only way to find out what people really want is to have a proper referendum, with a proper campaign by both the pro and anti lobbies. The issue is too serious to be left hanging in the air, and it is indeed frustrating that the only argument used against Independence is saying that a vote on it is illegal. I want to hear concrete reasons as to why staying in Spain would be a good idea, both for Catalonia and the rest of Spain, not simply petulant sneering about the Constitution. At the moment, the Independentists are winning the debate because nobody has entered the ring on the other side to give a coherent argument against it.

jonely

People queue at a polling station to cast their ballots in a symbolic independence vote in Barcelona, November 9, 2014. Photograph: ALBERT GEA/REUTERS

“You are losing Catalunya with every day that passes.”

If the Spanish government wants Catalans to stay with Spain they need to show them why it’s better for them to do so.


The independence faction right now is probably around 35 percent or so but has tripled in size in less than a decade; there is also a big chunk who do not wish to leave Spain but want more autonomy - up to a federal state.
By stonewalling every attempt to get a real debate and a real referendum going - one Madrid would still win today if they just showed some statesmanship for a change - the Spanish run the risk of losing that second group forever, just like they allowed the first group to triple in size in a short time.

There are many ways to deal with the Catalans’ grievances but by simply going “nope, sorry - not in the Constitution, go away” every time, eventually they will lose the hearts and minds of the vast majority of the people in Catalunya.
It’s very true that today was an exercise in futility by the Catalans. But it does seem to me that the rest of Spain is hell-bent on walking away with the wrong lesson.

You are losing Catalunya with every day that passes. Begin the process by setting up the debate, back up the No campaign, and start convincing the people they are better off staying with Spain in whatever format they will accept. In other words, show some actual leadership.

neaorin

“Spain’s policies with regards to Catalonia have been infantile”

I’m a foreign resident. I voted for independence. So did everyone else I know, despite the fact that it was highly inconvenient, people had to travel back to their hometowns where their resident cards were registered, I got turned away from the first polling station because my street was randomly registered at another on.

Did the participation make the whole thing inconclusive? Yes, it did. Would a “real” referendum lead to independence? I have my doubts.

Would independence solve all of Catalonia’s problems? Of course not. I have yet to meet a single person who thinks it would.

Do all independentists love Artur Mas and CiU? Of course not, the left in particular are quite uncomfortable to find CiU leading the cause at the moment. But they believe in the cause. CiU didn’t start the independence movement either; they piggy-backed on a swelling grass-roots movement. Quite cynically, many people feel.

Is everyone who voted yes a crazed nationalist? Of course not! I mean, I’m not even from here and I know a lot of foreign people who voted yes-yes. But the Catalans feel disrespected. Their language and culture are constantly under attack. Their statute was watered down and then axed. They’ve been asking for a referendum for years and Madrid ignores them.

Spain’s policies with regards to Catalonia have been infantile. They probably could save the situation. They probably won’t.

Site and source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/11/catalan-independence-poll-what-happens-next