Upcoming elections in Spain and Catalonia’s invisibility

Next November the 20th, on the anniversary of Franco’s death, there will be elections to the Spanish Parliament. Nobody has any doubt that right wing PP will win by an overwhelming majority of the votes since the current crisis and Zapatero’s frivolous policies have payed too high a toll on PSOE’s credibility. However, nobody knows what PP will do once they win, probably not even themselves.

Even though some Catalans claim that there’s no reason for Catalans to vote on those elections I disagree. Representation at the Spanish Parliament is very important since, while we are not independent, many things affecting Catalonia are decided there and therefore we need to defend our interests. Plus it is also a good way of publicizing Catalonia’s independence since many Catalans read Spanish centric media and all foreign correspondents are based in Madrid and only see what goes on there.

Last tuesday there was a face to face debate on the Spanish public TV between PSOE’s candidate Rubalcaba and PP’s Rajoy. Ignoring the fact that there are 10 different parties in the Congreso de los Diputados and therefore no reason to invite only 2 of them to a debate. During the debate Catalonia was not mentioned once. Not a single word regarding the Catalan fiscal deficit, the Constitutional Court amendment of the Catalan Statute, the dismantling of the the language immersion in schools or the mediterranian freight railway line or even their opinion how 75.7% of voters think Catalonia needs a new fiscal deal that guarantees collection of all taxes or that 65% of votes would go to independence. Nothing.

To illuatrate this, when the show started and the presenter greeted the Portuguese and Italian audiences (since the debate was being broadcasted by TV channels from those countries) in their languages but did not say a word in their languages to the Catalan, Basque or Galician speaking audiences (even though ignoring all other languages that are not Spanish is the norm in Spanish public TV)

On wednesday there was another debate on the Spanish public TV where out of the 10 parties only 5 were allowed to take part and ERC, with 3 deputies, was left out while IU (Spanish left wing), with only 2 deputies, was included. They claimed IU is a “nation wide” (meaning Spanish State-wide ) party as opposed to ERC which only available in Catalan countries. Therefore IU is more relevant. This left out a party that represents more than 200000 voters when the easiest would have been to bring extra chairs.

To me, all this, aside from the lack of democratic culture. Shows how scared the Spanish are of any actual debate about Catalonia (or Catalonia’s independence).

And finally some self criticism. I guess Spanish politicians don’t really feel that they need to say much about Catalonia since PP and PSOE are going to be two of the 3 most voted parties in Catalonia. They probably feel they have more to lose than to gain from doing so.

However, it is worrying that at the time when independentism is as its height voters don’t feel any of the available Catalan parties will be able to defend their interests in Madrid. This has been studied before. Voters change their vote depending of the elections. For the Catalan elections they’ll vote the party the party they want at the Generalitat but for the Spanish elections they’ll vote with a Spanish frame of mind.

Only a referendum of independence will show actual support of independence. One cannot infer that ERC’s 3 deputies at the Spanish Parliament reflect the social support to Catalonia’s independence. It would be like saying that only people who vote ecologist parties are concerned with the environment.

Also, some good news, it seems that, as I pointed out before, the change in the leaderships in ERC is already improving the expected results, which initially predicted ERC would lose their 3 deputies. Now it seems they may be able to keep them. I’m also happy about how the integration with Reagrupament and Catalunya Sí brings us closer to a broad Catalan independentist coalition for the next Catalan elections in 2014.

Spanish Constitutional amendment aimed against Catalonia’s self-government

Spanish parties PP and PSOE have agreed, practically overnight and in secrecy, to do what they had fiercely opposed for 30 years every time anyone suggested: to amend the Spanish Constitution.

The current Spanish Constitution was written after 40 years of a fascist dictatorship and with the army overlooking the whole process it contains many totalitarian articles (like article 8, which allows military action against secession attempts) and intentionally overlooks the national diversity inside the Spanish state.

Every time is was suggested that it should be updated to acknowledge the different nations inside the Spanish State, the right of self determination, or the reorganization of the Spain as a federal state the Spanish replied that their Constitution is sacred and can’t be changed. To illustrate this, Spanish parties call themselves “Constitutionalists” instead of simply Spanish nationalists.

But now the PP and PSOE have decided to make a change to it to limit the public deficit. They have done this without a previous debate, leaving aside all other parties in the Spanish Parliament (the Catalan and Basque ones, for instance) and without the mandatory referendum with the excuse that they need to do it urgently to inspire confidence to the markets following France and Germany’s advice.

The problem with this amendment is the way it will limit the Catalan Government. In countries like Germany where similar laws exist there is also a fiscal deficit limitation, which limits also the transfer of wealth from richer to poorer areas. Not so in Spain, effectively limiting the indebtment that Catalonia can take but not limiting consequently its fiscal deficit with other Autonomous Communities (which is now a whopping 10%) therefore adding an unsustainable pressure to Catalan finances. The Generalitat already has to take care with the most expensive public services of the state like healthcare, education or police. PP and PSOE have of course ignored CiU’s requests to include a clause to limit the fiscal deficit. To this, even CiU, still shocked, has warned of a clash of unforeseeable consequences. I am quite skeptical.

So this reform has proven a few points:

  1. that the Spanish Constitution can be modified, it is not as sacred as the Spanish had made us believe
  2. in any changes to the Spanish Constitution the Spanish nationalists will use their majority to impose their decision over the other nations in the state
  3. any changes will be aimed at weakening Catalan self government
  4. skipping the referendum and blatantly ignoring the society is the latest display lack of democratic culture in Spain

By refusing to debate this reform and by pushing it without the support of the other parties PP and PSOE have broken whatever was left of the Spanish Constitutional “deal” therefore morally freeing Catalan parties, like CiU, which had originally agreed to it, to act outside of it. Catalonia must recover its Constitution.

Picture by Gustavo Bravo