Catalan Chronicles: A Kind of Referendum

As November pressed on and the elections drew nearer, Spain in general took a break from the very tense months of September and October.  Puigdemont was off in Belgium with five other former counselors drumming up support and accusing the Spanish judicial system of being untrustworthy; the parties were bickering about whether or not they wanted to participate in the elections and whether or not they would accept the results.  And most of us turned off the TV and just wished everyone well.


The Spanish government’s strategy was pretty straightfoward: Limit its time in governing the region, adopt a soft approach to the Catalonia as a whole, and arrest only the very top level leaders of the movement.  It was felt, or possibly agreed upon, that the less Madrid ran business in Catalonia, the better.  Just enough to put things in order, win the elections and steer the region in the right direction.


There was just one problem: it was risky as hell.  Somehow the national government assumed the people would come to their senses and vote for reason in December.  The silent majority would finally make its voice known and the separatists would finally have to acknowledge that their cause was not as strong as they had predicted.  It would be the beginning of the end.  A kind of referendum.


But all indications, polls and serious analyses suggested that there wouldn’t be much of a change.  In addition to that, the arrests, the imprisonment, and Mr. Puigdemont harrassing from afar, the central government’s image wad becomed more than tarnished.  If the PP and its temprary allies were trying to win over the Catalans’ support, they were doing a lousy job of it.  Critics were arguing that the Rajoy administration had acted too hastily.  The issue was still too tense and hot.  Tension needed to be lowered or else nothing would be achieved.


The separatists were banking their future on the December 21st vote.  With a vast majority participating, and with anti-Spanish sentiment as high as it had ever been, not to mention the fact their home rule had been taken away from them in humiliating fashion.  If ever there was a time to prove to the world that the majority of the Catalans did support their cause and, by default, the independence of their region, this was it.


The result was a vote for neither.  As was feared, nothing really changed and the region looked poised for a renewed deadlock.  Which doesn’t mean there weren’t some notable modifications.  To begin with, C’s, the newly formed center-right party, won the popular vote, but, with just 25% of the popular vote, was miles away from absolute majority.  Nonetheless, it did experience a 50% increase in support to reach over 1.1 million votes.  The two major pro-independence parties, no split this time, picked up about 21% apiece.  Another secessionist group, the anti-establishment CUP, experienced a serious decline in support, as did Podemos.  But the most shocking revelation was the debacled performance of the PP.   The warning signs were already there.   In 2015 elections, they had dropped from 19 to 11 seats.  This time the free fall continued and bottomed out at 4 seats in parliament, meaning they were unable to form their own group in the legislature and would have to become a part of the mixed group of different minor parties.  It’s pretty much as embarrassing as you can get for a major national party.  A kick in the teeth, gut and balls all at once.


So, the lowdown was this:

  • A constitutionalist party won the elections.  That was true.
  • A aggregate of the three separatist parties’ seats gave them a slim of unquestionable absolute majority.  That was also true.
  • The popular vote of the the pro-unity parties was higher than the independence parties.  That was true too.

The result: one big mess.  The show would go on.  That was the truest part of them all.

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