One of the bigger concerns of the many the Spanish government has about allowing a refrendum is that the people who are really passionate about holding one, i.e. those who want change, are inclined to never be satisfied with the results. After all, status quoers are often relieved to see such radical proposals shot down and prefer to put everything behind them once the whole ordeal is over with. And they usually get their way because, what the heck, most people don’t want to leave their comfort zones, so independence referendums tend to fail.
Consider the Scottish situation. After an exemplary process and vote in 2014, the Scottish movement in favor of independence took a greater blow than expected, with little over 44% supporting an exit. That’s a sizable margin by most standards, especially considering that 85% participated. Essentially, the Scottish Nationalist Party was taken to the cleaners. The events took place peacefully, and the both sides accepted the decision. Yes, the losers accepted the decision, but they didn’t give up the fight. Why? Because if your final goal is to live to see your land become a sovereign nation, anything short of that is going to be, well, unacceptable in the end.
Full victory, nothing else, as Ike would have said.
Ironically, pro-independence sky-rocketed in Scotland in the ensuing months, and ever since the Brexit vote to leave the EU, an outcome hardly anyone expected and one which the Scots strongly opposed, there has been a resurgance of talk about holding another referendum because the UK’s departure was not in the plans for Scotland when they voted to stay. There may a shred of logic to their reasoning, but let’s face it, just about any excuse is good enough to call for another plebiscite.
Spain’s main government is caught in this dilemma. Till this day, its biggest strategy is to basically ignore the notion altogether. You can’t do it, and that’s that. The constitution backs them up, and so do Spaniards who like Real Madrid and stabbing heavily wounded bulls, but it’s shakey ground for many. In the 2014 consultation, their line of argument was that the election was totally illegal and, therefore, not valid. If you give it no consideration, you avoid granting it any legitimacy. Then it proceeded to press charges against Artur Mas for disobeying court orders. This was an understandable stance because, afterall, he was. The man was holding public office and was in theory bound to uphold the law. You’d think, at least. Still, the Rajoy administration’s disdain for Catalonia’s desire “just to have that one chance to vote” began to work against it.
New regional elections in 2015 scrambled the political scenario once again. I dare not venture into trying to give you a rundown on the alphabet soup of parties that vied for control, mainly because they have changed over and over again in the past fifteen years. Plus, many are alliances of smaller parties which, after the elections, join other alliances to run the show. This system often makes it possible for coalitions to be formed through political pacts, but it can also get messy when differemces over policy arise and mistrust simmers. All the same, the pro-independence parties loss the popular vote by two points but carried the majority in parliamentary seats. They named Carles Puidgemont, a shaggy haired official who looked like he came straight out of a British boarding school, who announced that before his tenure was up, Catalonia would be an independent nation. That’s a pretty tall order.
Madrid and Barcelona wrestled over the issue well into 2017. In June, Puigdemont announced that a referendum would be held on Oct. 1st, and the political stage was ablaze that summer. Even so, most people I knew thought nothing would come of it. They thought because that is what many Spaniards have believed for decades. It just won’t happen. Well, sorry. On September 6th, the Catalan parliament voted in a new law that said they could. The opposition walked out in protest before the vote took place. In their opinion, 52% of the voters were been pushed aside. The secessionists didn’t care. They were going to steamroll their agenda over protocol to the very end, no matter what the rest said.
Full victory, nothing less.