dijous, 25 de novembre de 2010

A brief biased guide to Catalan elections

Més sobre les eleccions en anglès. Si algú vol afegir, corregir alguna cosa, ja m’ho direu. Amb la mateixa conclusió d’ahir... després de molts d’anys de cinisme i pasotisme, per una altra vegada vull confiar en algú...

I have now lived in Catalonia for 21 years, 21 law-abiding tax-paying European-citizen years, but still am not allowed a vote. Snif! This year, however, I have decided to put aside my habitual cynicism and choose who I would vote for if I could. However, I do not consider it to be choosing a party, but, instead, choosing an objective ... Maybe they will deceive me too, but, as they say, a change is as good as a rest.

So here goes for a brief introduction to Catalan politics:

Although Catalonia is kept on a tight chain by the State of Spain, it does have its own Parliament which has certain autonomic powers. As with most countries elections are held every 4 years, and time is up on Sunday. The Parliament has 135 MPs and is currently made up of the following parties, with a PSC-ERC-ICV coalition in power:

CiU (with 48 seats). A so-called nationalist party which, despite being in power since the 1980s, to 2003, only managed to get Madrid to offer Catalonia the scraps from the dining table but with no real progress being made from a nationalist point of view. They seem – to me- to be a political party with the sole objective of staying in power and obtaining more power for themselves, rather than thinking of long term visions for Catalonia. They are a centre-right party with conservative Christian roots. They consider themselves to be liberal (though not like the Liberals we know in the UK).

PSC (Catalan Socialist Party) (37 seats) is basically the Catalan arm of the Spanish socialist party and, hence, after 7 years in power seem to have achieved very little in the way of Catalan autonomy. In fact, things seem to have gone backwards after seeing the consequences of the problems with the new Statute.

ERC (Left-wing Republican Catalans) (21 seats) – firm believers in Catalan independence. However, 7 years of government have brought little or no progress.

ICV (Left-wing Green Catalans) (12) – believe it is time to re-write the Spanish constitution (unfortunately an impossible task if they cannot convince the Madrid Parliament first) so as to accept a federal vision of Spain, where Catalonia achieves much more autonomy. Personally, I think 30 years of democracy have shown that this is a road the Spanish state does not wish to take. Although they are ecologists, there have been a few too many “dodgy” decisions taken by them. Here’s hoping that the new generation coming in now, will put them back where they should be.

PP – Popular Party (14). right-wing conservatives. Think Aznar. Think Iraq. Spanish nationalists with no desire for loosening Catalonia’s ties with the state. Often fight in law courts to reduce some of the (limited) powers Catalonia actually has.

Ciutadans (3) – more or less the same but just in Catalonia. Claim to be in favour of freedom, which actually means more freedom for Spain, less for Catalonia.

These are the parties who currently have seats in the Parliament. Over 100 other parties will also stand in Sunday’s elections, with the usual bunch of Pensioners United, Free Cannabis, Happy Christians, Anti-Bull Fighting and so on, adding colour to the proceedings.

This time, however, two new Catalan parties (Reagrupament and SI) have emerged with definite possibilities of gaining parliamentary representation. Both have the independence of Catalonia high on their agenda. And the fact of the matter is, after the protest march in July, it is surprising how little attention the “traditional” parties have paid to this issue. Perhaps it is true that the people often lead politicians, rather than the other way round.

Of these two options, the one which has attracted my attention is Solidaritat Catalana (SI). This is a coalition of many smaller parties who have one thing in common. Independence. They are a mixed bag of lefties and right-wingers, but I believe their proposal is logical. First, let’s forget our policies, get together and aim only for independence. Afterwards, each can go their own way and the future of Catalonia will go to the left or right depending on the voters’ will. The point being, Catalonia can do very little to improve its economic, social, or cultural problems until it achieves the right to decide on these things (and act). Without independence, all we can do is moan to Madrid.

This coalition is led by Joan Laporta, ex-chairman of Barcelona Football Club – who won every title under the sun while he was in charge, and beat Real Madrid 2-6 at their ground!

SI firmly believe the time is over for begging and negotiating with Madrid. The only possible route is for 68 Catalan MPs (parliamentary majority) to decide to declare Catalan independence in the Parliament, a decision which would then need to be negotiated with Brussels, and the UN. Apparently this is the way taken by many other nations in recent years, and international and European legislation would throw up no barriers.

So what’s going to happen?

The Catalan elections are strangely biased in favour of the 6 parties already in Parliament as the others are not allowed a presence in the media. So, although SI could gain a lot of support in theory, it will be a struggle to reach the “masses” who get most of their information from the TV. Personally, I hope they manage to get into the Parliament. If they cannot get 68 MPs (between SI, ERC, CiU) this time, once this party is publicly established, maybe 2014 will be the year ....

Hope by Jack Johnson

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