Elections in Catalonia, a new option on the table to resolve the crisis
Demonstration in Barcelona after the arrest of two independence leaders on 17 October 2017
The Spanish government has attempted a last minute proposal on Wednesday to try to overcome the crisis with Catalan separatist leaders, suggesting that it would renounce its threat to begin the suspension of autonomy of the region as early as Thursday if the regional president summoned regional elections.
As the hours skyrocketed towards the last delay left to the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to renounce any desire for independence, Thursday at 10:00 am, the political headquarters were rumored.
Mr. Puigdemont was to meet with the leadership of his party, the PdeCat, in the evening.
The Spanish government, on the other hand, suggested its willingness to accept a solution that would allow the separatist president to emerge from the conflict which seems to have become inextricable.
“If he (Carles Puigdemont, ed) convenes elections, and according to the envisaged modalities, this could be considered a return to the legality,” said a government source to the AFP.
Previously, the government had explicitly brandished the threat of a suspension of the autonomy of Catalonia.
In the absence of a satisfactory reply, “Mr. Puigdemont will cause the application of article 155 of the Constitution” which allows to suspend autonomy, assured the number two of the Spanish government, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.
The biggest political crisis in Spain since the country became democratic again in 1977 could thus lead to a takeover by the central government of one of its richest regions, where 16% of Spaniards live, to avoid a declaration of ” independence, which could destabilize Europe.
But the measure could also provoke a violent agitation in the region, where demonstrations have followed one another for several weeks and some in Madrid even fear that the radical independentists will not “paralyze Catalonia”, representing 20% of Spain’s GDP.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Vice-President Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, on 11 October 2017 in the Parliament in Madrid
Although Catalonia is divided almost equally on independence, Carles Puigdemont considers that the Catalans have given the regional parliament the “mandate” to declare independence after having voted 90% (and 43% secession in a referendum on 1 October.
The vote, which was banned and punctuated by police violence, had been boycotted by the opposition.
But in the separatist camp, some already feel like they have left, like Abril Marcos, a 19-year-old mathematics student met in front of her college in Barcelona, who voted “yes”.
“The first few years will be difficult,” she admits. As for the Brexit, “we have it in common to be in a process of separation, a difficult process”.
– Impossible dialogue –
Map of unilateral declarations of independence in Europe and current status of their accession or not to the United Nations
However, the independence president is in a hurry on all sides to temporize, including by the business community who panically see the flight of more than 800 companies who have preferred to transfer their headquarters elsewhere, for fear of instability.
He proposed Monday to the head of the Spanish government Mariano Rajoy to allow himself two months to “dialogue”. But Rajoy demands that his opponent forego any secessionist plan.
The Catalan separatist president Carles Puigdemont at the regional government headquarters in Barcelona on 17 October 2017
The tension between Madrid and the separatists has increased since Monday night after the detention of two figures of independence, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, which led to important demonstrations throughout Catalonia in reaction to their incarceration.
They were prosecuted for sedition, after encouraging protesters in late September to block the exit of a building where civil guards were conducting searches, preventing them from going out for several hours.
For the independentists, they were only demonstrating peacefully and were “political prisoners”. Amnesty International also criticized the detentions on Wednesday, asking the judicial authorities to “stop immediately”.
– One week –
Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, on 16 October 2017 in Madrid
Article 155, which is to be triggered by the Senate, would allow the government to take over some or all of the powers of Catalonia, which has extensive powers, notably in health and education.
A similar measure was applied in 1934 in Catalonia after the proclamation of a “Catalan State of the Spanish Federal Republic”. And the autonomy of the region had also been suspended by the dictator Francisco Franco (1939-1975).
And it is precisely around the debate on the competences of Catalonia, wounded by the partial annulment in 2010 by the justice of a statute giving it very broad powers, that the current crisis was tied up.
FC Barcelona, flag bearer of the Catalan identity, has planned to deploy Wednesday night to the Camp Nou a large banner … calling for a dialogue.