dissabte, 8 de novembre de 2014

Catalan update (2) - 24 hours to go...

Carrying on from Monday's update as the Catalan roller coaster continues...
... so as  we said, with it being impossible to hold any kind of referendum or referendum-like vote, even a non-binding one, the Catalan government announced that the 9 November "thing" would now be a "citizen participation process on the political future of Catalonia." From my understanding of this, it means a volunteer run "asking-opinion-survey", with no legal value or democratic guarantees - the volunteers, presumably from the pro-vote camp, manage the vote and count the papers. There is a sense of formality to it, though, as the "vote" (or public opinion poll?) will be held in public government-owned buildings, but with no government or public workers present. The government has compiled the list of volunteers (about 40,000 names in 3 days!), sent ballot boxes and voting papers, and given instructions on how to run it - and then took a back seat. Luckily.
The Spanish government decided even this kind of act would also be illegal and anti-constitutional in their eyes, so they asked the Spanish State Council to prepare an opinion. The State Council is one of these supreme bodies, supposedly neutral and above everything, but actually full of over-paid, under-worked, 99-year-old recycled Francoists nominated by the two main (anti-vote) Spanish political parties. I kid you not. For example, the president of the Council was a top man in the health minstry under Franco and already on the Council back then. Can you imagine members of Hitler's government being offered the top job in guaranteeing democratic rights in modern-day Germany? Neither can I.
The State Council then passed their decision on to the Constitutional Court (political party nominated bunch of 99-year-old puppet judges) who immediately suspended the vote while they decide whether it's anti-constitutional - the same as they had done with the original decree (see Monday).
This would be like attempting to ban a public opinion survey involving a group of volunteer citizens standing on Barnsley market asking you what you think about the new plans for the market. Not really 21st century Europe, is it?
As this was the last card the Catalans could play - nobody could imagine that we wouldn't even be allowed a Mickey Mouse public survey - then, the Catalan government has decided to go ahead anyway.
The reasoning behind the Spanish government and Court's decision is that they claim the new event is basically the same as the original proposal for a real referendum but with a different name. This is not true - the long-term objective is the same, but the format and style of the new action must surely be allowed in democratic Europe!
 So, with all the to-ing and fro-ing, what will happen tomorrow? Who knows. The Catalans want a huge turnout obviously to show to the 700 international journalists who have come to cover a "possibly illegal Mickey Mouse public survey" that we mean business. Spain has the option of physically carrying out the ban, sending in the police to confiscate ballot boxes and lock the polling stations. This would be hard to achieve - 900 towns with 7000 polling stations, and over a million people on the streets - and a disaster for their public relations. Imagine a photo of 5000 people queuing past a famous Barcelona landmark with a voting slip in their hand as the Guardia Civil arrest and drag away the volunteers,or the Spanish authorities removing the Catalan government's powers and arresting the President? 
Personally I think the Spanish government will go for the least worst scenario and let the event happen, before dismissing it as a non-serious vote the day after. Damage limitation. Having said that, there has been an initimidatory increase in the presence of Spanish military and navy in Catalonia over the last week.... this, plus the general confusion - the ups and downs of all the changes made to the voting system -and physical difficulties - some people have to travel 20km to reach their nearest polling station - mean that there is huge uncertainty as to how people will react tomorrow. I think, given the extremely difficult circumstances, a 50% turnout would be a success.

Anyway, I'm going to vote. This is now going beyond a desire for independence; it's a desire to maintain my basic democratic rights. By coincidence the vote happens on Remembrance Sunday. Fortunately, as bad as the Catalans' lot is, the present situation bears no comparison with what our forefathers had to fight for, but, in a sense, I think carrying out my democratic rights (suspended by the Spanish government) would have made my grandfather (who lost his physical and mental health as a prisoner under the Nazis) proud.

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