Something is moving in Catalonia. Arenys de Munt a little village with 6500 eligible voters in the Maresme comarca (the Catalan equivalent of a county), 40km to the north of Barcelona succeeded in organizing a referendum of independence from Spain last month. An overwhelming 96% of the voters said “yes” for Catalonia to become an independent state in the European Union.
The story of this success started as a private initiative (legally binding referendums are under the exclusive control of the Spanish state and the right to self-determination is not allowed in Spain). A lot of publicity was given by the fact that a judge unsuccessfully attempted to ban it but since it was not an initiative coming from the town council, (although supported by it) but from the citizens, and the voting was held outside official offices, it was perfectly legal.
This happened while at the same time the authorities defended the right of the Spanish fascists from Falange Española, former dictator Franco’s party, to hold a demonstration in the village on the day of the referendum. Let’s not forget that fascist parties are not banned in Spain. This gave the event loads of publicity but the impact was even bigger when the opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, forced the Spanish president, Zapatero to comment on the subject. Zapatero declared “I don’t expect this to go viral”.
On September the 13th the voting went on uneventfully and in a partyish atmosphere until the results were made public at the end of the day. Meanwhile, 50 Spanish fascists arrived to Arenys, did their demonstration closely watched by the police and were largely ignored except for the media, with more than one hundred reporters following the events. The local mayor Carles Móra said that “this is a triumph for democracy”.
Many Catalan politicians, observing the success tried to show their support once it was clear how important the event had been, although they had ignored it beforehand. It seems that the current Catalan politicians are unable to lead the Catalan society and so society spontaneously takes action.
International media, like the New York Times included the news in their following day editions.
Señor Zapatero was wrong, inspired by Arenys de Munt’s experience many Catalan municipalities have decided to organise a similar voting, this time simultaneously, on December the 13th. As of today at least 117 catalan villages and cities are preparing independence referendums next December with more municipalities being added to the list every day. There are already plans to organize a national referendum next year. Political parties have been excluded from this since the organizers want to make it clear that this is a citizen initiative.