The great day finally arrived. Nearly a year ago, Catalan premier Artur Mas decided that the vote would be held this past Sunday, and so it was. The Generalitat, as the regional government is known, won its match against the Spanish state.
However, voting took place with no legal basis, no census, no controls, no impartial polling stations, no guarantee that the recount would be truthful, and in violation of Catalan laws regulating the process. Official communication channels were turned into propaganda tools – Catalunya Radio, the public station, covered nothing else on Sunday between 8am and the time that polling stations closed – and voters were faced with an incomprehensible double question.
But the overarching feeling is that the vote took place. And in Catalonia, Artur Mas has emerged the winner and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy the loser.
Not since October 6, 1934, when Lluís Companys proclaimed the Catalan state, had Catalonia looked so much like a banana republic. The rule of law has been subverted, the world has been treated to an incredible spectacle and visiting journalists were torn between disbelief and complete confusion.
Yet Mas has beaten Rajoy, which is to say that arbitrariness has defeated the law, because secessionists – and even those who are not but still supported the secession camp by going to vote – remain a compact bloc ready to move forward no matter what the results, since participation is the main thing.
This is so much so, that EL PAÍS asked me to file this opinion piece before 8pm on Sunday, just as the polling stations were closing. This means that it was impossible to know which way the vote went. This never happens during elections or legal referendums: newsrooms push back press time in order to include comments on the results. But in this case, only participation rates were important.
Not since October 6, 1934 had Catalonia looked so much like a banana republic”
Though some people may not have realized it yet, going to vote was tantamount to voting for independence, because it played right into the hands of those who would bypass the law to reach their goals. This was very clearly explained last Friday by Carlos Jiménez Villarejo in an EL PAÍS piece that ended with the following sentence: “No matter what angle you look at it from, the November 9 vote is incompatible with the demands of a democratic rule of law.” Voting was collaborating.
The situation in Catalonia is serious, because there are around two million citizens, more or less a third of the population, who are willing to blindly follow a government and parties who wilfully ignore democratic procedures in order to achieve their goals. The democratic consensus has been broken, and disloyalty is the rule. The danger lies in Catalan authorities deciding to keep walking down this road.
Francesc de Carreras is a professor of Constitutional Law.