The citizens of Catalonia are called on to vote this coming Sunday to elect their regional parliament. This election is pivotal for two reasons: first, because it will notably influence the future development of the Catalan issue, which is going through a heated moment; and second, because it will become a cornerstone in the evolution of Spain itself – its structure as a state and its society as a cohesive, harmonious and viable unit.
Contrary to what those who called the election are claiming, what’s being decided on Sunday is not Catalan independence and a subsequent break with Spain – a country that Catalonia co-founded, worked together with during history’s great challenges, and whose modernization process it spearheaded.
Mas’s victory requires the sum of two contradictory, incompatible lists
But the election results will nevertheless condition the future. It is to be hoped that this crisis will end up fueling creative projects for coexistence based on the common strengths of the Catalan nation and Spain, that nation of nations. Such projects already exist despite the temporary paralysis gripping various government elites.
But there is also a great risk that the crisis will instead deal a heavy blow to both Catalonia and Spain, because if supporters of secession win, they will have greater leeway to keep issuing their challenges.
That is why all citizens must go to the polling stations on Sunday. Every single one of them – not just those who have been active in recent years either for logical reasons (frustration over the economic crisis, re-centralizing impulses) or as a result of the permanent political agitation by regional powers.
Individuals who feel dissatisfied for any reason but who believe in the values of cohesion and solidarity should also get involved; so should those who are aware that, in an increasingly open and difficult world, joining forces makes us stronger while division makes us weaker. We should all recall that the bonds that bring Catalans and other citizens of Spain together are not just economic, but also personal and emotional... and that a lot is therefore at stake.
Those who trust that the secessionist challenge is not serious and feel tempted to stay home on Sunday will be risking having their future decided by others who are, in fact, quite earnest about their goals, and who are going for them regardless of the fact that they are making a mockery of the law, of the social majority and of the common state.
This is a key election. But it is not a plebiscite. To those who called it, and to those who regularly underplay the value of the law, as though it were a strange foreign object rather than a binding element that elevates us above jungle status, it is worth reminding that a plebiscite deals with a single issue, not with a variety of programs containing diverse proposals.
A plebiscite must also be called by whoever has such powers (in Spain, the central government, not regional authorities). It is organized according to very specific rules (and with conditions, questions and two-third majorities both in terms of quorum and voters, if basic issues are being voted on). A plebiscite is also based on a (qualified, if necessary) majority of popular votes, not of seats in parliament. Finally, a plebiscite must yield a clear and unequivocal result, and whether the latter is binding or non-binding, there must be immediate effects, either operative or in the nature of guidelines.
None of these conditions are currently met, which means the election will lack the legitimacy that is vested upon referendums. The Sunday election will not provide backing to any strategy aimed at reverting constitutional and statutory laws. The non-existence of rules to make a plebiscitary reading of election results, as the head of the Catalan government plans to do, only cements the arbitrariness and legal insecurity of his position, and represents an attack on fair play.
The Sunday election will not provide backing to any strategy aimed at reverting constitutional and statutory laws
[Catalan premier] Artur Mas first set the threshold for carrying on with his independence plans at a very large majority of over 60 percent support; later he got votes and seats mixed up; and finally, he is entrusting this majority to an impossible combination of two-list seats.
This is a matter of capital concern: his victory requires the sum of two contradictory, incompatible lists – his own [Junts pel Sí] and that of anti-system radicals [CUP]. Both programs are different in every possible way, most substantially in their views of the economic system and EU membership. But they even have different ideas on the details of the only point they have in common, their desire for independence.
These differences add an element of difficulty that should not be underestimated when analyzing the election results, the choice of the new Catalan premier and the internal coherence of the new executive that will have to handle such a crucial moment in the history of Catalonia.
There is only one way in which this election could possibly be construed as plebiscitary: for those who truly view it as a referendum, if the secessionist list does not manage half plus one of the votes, then the independence process can be considered to be stuck in a rut.
One cannot impose his rules on everyone else, but he should at least accept the rules of the project he is launching. Nothing to object, however, if the winner views the results as renewed support to keep working towards his goals within the bounds of the law.
English version by Susana Urra.