Bullheaded Madrid authorities confront Catalonia with force

The previous Catalan Parliament in session. The new Parliament elected on 21 December 2017 is not convened yet. (Catalan Parliament work photo).

Madrid is doing exactly the same mistakes after the Catalan secessionist parties won the 21 December election, as in the weeks leading to the unauthorized independence referendum of 1st October. Both Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and King Felipe VI refused to let the door open for talks with the secessionist leaders and Carles Puigdemont, the likely next President of the wealthy region.

This politically unproductive stance is to lead Catalonia almost exactly to the same deadlock as in the previous violent circumstances, during and after the ‘referendum’. In this way, the initiative is actually in the hands of the secessionists, depending on what plans the fugitive Puigdemont and the other secession leaders are up to. If they chose so, they can again mobilize a good part of Catalan society to defiant action, thus provoking the central authorities to use violence for the world to watch.

Many want to remain

There is only a small detail against the secessionists. Around 56% of Barcelona county voters choose parties which support ‘remain’. On the whole, though, the secessionist parties won 70 seats in the new Catalonia parliament, two less than what they had before, still a clear majority in a house of 135 deputies. Surprisingly enough, as the largest party in Catalonia emerged the Citizens (Ciudadanos – Cs) party with 25.3% of the vote and 37 seats. Cs is now the largest unionist party, with Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) reduced to 3 seats from 11 in the previous parliament.

Rajoy’s party shrunk

This is a clear indication that those who wanted to vote remain, avoided PP because of the aggressive tactics adopted by the Prime Minister in the whole affair. Puigdemont’s Party, Junts Per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) remained the largest separatist political force and logically he is to again become the President of the regional government.

Still, both Rajoy’s government and the King of Spain remain stuck in their belligerent stance towards the leadership of the secessionists. On 22 December, Puigdemont, from his exile in Brussels, called for talks and what he got as an answer from Madrid was an ‘invitation’ to return to Spain and go straight to prison. Instead, the central authorities could have negotiated his arrival and even his taking on the position of President of Catalonia. In return, the secessionist parties could bring their opening negotiating position to something less than independence. But no, Madrid insists on locking them up.

A series of blunders

This is just one of a series of major mistakes Madrid has been committing all along this gratuitous game of thrones. After confronting the secessionists with unwarranted violence in the period up and during the ‘referendum’ of 1st October, Rajoy unilaterally proclaimed the 21 December elections. Logically – if any political logic is left in Madrid’s politics – the central government expected to win last Thursday’s election. Everybody, however, wonders on what grounds they held such expectations….

The central authorities, after having used brutal police force against the population for just wanting to participate in an ‘operetta’ referendum, stupidly enough expected to win the hearts of the unionists. True, they turned out en masses and actually voted to remain, with an overall percentage of more than 45%, making the ‘Citizens’ party the largest political force in Catalonia. Yet, this was not enough; the secessionists are again in majority. Had Madrid been more insightful and smart all along the past months, a unionist majority could have been very probable last week.

He doesn’t talk

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case and Rajoy insists in his stubborn rejection of talking with Puigdemont. It’s as if Madrid wants to push the Catalans to an all out fight. Judging the situation from what the main actors are now doing and saying, Madrid seems to have chosen a belligerent confrontation, indifferent if this may lead the region’s population to a deep internal division and, why not, civil clashes. This is probably to follow, if the secessionists’ live up to their electoral rhetoric.

In conclusion, it seems Madrid rather plans to ‘conquer’ Catalonia by force, once more after what ‘Generalissimo’ Francisco Franco did in 1938. To be reminded, in 1933, the rightful government of Spain under Prime Minster Manuel Azaña was discussing the autonomy of Catalonia and Biscay. Franco vehemently opposed this prospect and some events later the tragic Spanish Civil War broke out. Catalonia put up the best organized military resistance to Franco’s fascists.

However, this is 2017 and the social, political, economic, cultural, moral and many other aspects of today’s situation are totally different from that time. Most Catalans don’t really care about independence, but they don’t tolerate Madrid’s unwarranted animosity either. It seems Rajoy doesn’t take account of that and instead he and the Madrid elites want to keep Spain united the hard way. Regrettably, it’s difficult to predict where this may lead to. Not to forget, the many decades the Basque Conflict – a real war of terror – lasted and how many lives it claimed.

 

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