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Catalonia’s Laboured Independence

Bojan Zeric, Reporter

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Describing Catalonia’s last few weeks as eventful, politically speaking, would be a huge understatement. Catalan independence from Spain has often been a topic of discussion over the last few decades, but these days the perspective of the creation of a new small country in the south-east of Spain is becoming more and more a reality and less of a fantasy. On October 27th, the Catalan Parliament voted in favour of Catalonia’s independence. To try and predict what is going to happen now, we need to understand how exactly we got to this point.
Over the last few months, the Catalans’ requests for independence through rallies and banners, have become more and more insistent, which convinced the Parliament to have a referendum on October 1st. It is not the first time that a referendum like this has been organised in Catalonia, but in previous occasions the Spanish government had blocked it, labelling it as illegal. Catalonia’s requests for independence is not unfounded, considering that the region has its own language, used for official documents, its own flag and national anthem. As about 2 million Catalans voted, 92% in favour of the region’s independence, Madrid, for which the region represents a financially and politically valuable resource, did not recognize the referendum as official: the Catalan law from September 6th, which states that in case of victory of the “YES” Catalonia would have to be declared independent at once, has never been approved by the Spanish government.
The last few Catalan weeks have been full of rallies characterized by the presence of the red and yellow flag. On October 27th, the Catalan Parliament, in which the independentists are the majority, voted and approved a declaration of independence. The event ended with Catalonia’s most important politicians, including the president Puigdemont, standing with their right hand on their heart listening to the national anthem. The Spanish response consisted in applying article n. 155 of the Constitution, which allows the government to force a province to respect the law in any way necessary. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan Parliament and announced anticipated elections in Catalonia on December 21st. Rajoy also fired all the members of the Catalan government, including Puigdemont himself, and Josep Tradero, head of the police. Puigdemont risks about thirty years in prison for what is considered an act of rebellion. Now the Catalan parties and people will have to decide whether to accept the anticipated elections of December 21st or to boycott them, which currently seems like the most likely option. For now, Catalonia does not officially have a president or any form of authority. For Spain, the present is unclear and the future uncertain.
What is currently happening in Catalonia is something that we have never seen before in Europe. The future all depends on the political strategies the two governments will decide to use.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

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Catalonia’s Laboured Independence