Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Tuesday, 25 july 2017 | THE HINDU


Spanish steps: On the secession vote in Catalonia

Madrid pulls out all the stops ahead of the secession vote in Catalonia



Ahead of the controversial October 1 referendum on secession in Catalonia, the Spanish government’s awkward move of tightening the purse-strings could prove politically costly. There is cause for concern that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's meddling with the financial priorities of Barcelona will play into the hands of the separatists. A veteran of many a crisis, Mr. Rajoy recently issued instructions to the regional government to ensure that not a single euro earmarked for development activities is diverted to the vote. The decision requiring weekly certification follows a judicial declaration that all expenditure towards the vote were unconstitutional. Recourse to such seemingly stringent measures has predictably drawn flak from Catalan leaders, who were already embittered that the province is being denied its due share of the overall tax revenues. Madrid’s mainstream political parties are opposed to the long-standing demand of Catalonia for independent statehood. Riding on the overwhelming support in the national parliament, Mr. Rajoy’s centre-right coalition is determined to block the proposed independence referendum. The government is even contemplating the invocation of Article 155 of the constitution to exercise direct authority over the north-eastern region in the event of a worst-case scenario. The country’s constitutional court is widely expected to rule that any referendum, as well as secession from the union, is violative of the constitution.

But that is where legalese ends and politics inevitably takes over. After holding several symbolic independence votes across many municipalities over the past decade, Catalan nationalists sense that what once seemed a distant dream could one day be turned into reality. The economic and social upheaval following the bursting of the Spanish housing bubble after the 2007-8 financial crisis, local problems were deflected on to the national stage. The 2015 election of the regional government, with a known pro-independence bent, might have been a reflection of this shift in perception. A perception among Catalan youth that the national government is clamping down on democratic expression could only strain the already delicate equation between Madrid and Barcelona. Recent history casts a remarkably sobering light on how much politicians can count on rational arguments to hold sway over popular sentiment. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is just one example. Mr. Rajoy has earned a reputation for exercising caution to a fault during his premiership. His conciliatory tone, for instance, on Catalonia’s fiscal autonomy, a demand he had rejected some years ago, may yet open a window. The call issued by the opposition socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez, for more federal powers could similarly soothe tensions. Madrid must look to expand this spirit of accommodation.


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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia