PUBLISHED ON 29/10/2019 AT 12:21
BY DR IGNASI GUARDANS, CATALAN, LAWYER AND FORMER MEMBER OF THE SPANISH PARLIAMENT AND THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
“Increasing resistance to Belgian oppression and a clear majority for Flemish independence “. If the foreign press decided to titrate in this way the last regional elections in Belgium (where the N-VA and the Vlaams Belang together won 43.3% of the votes in Flanders), one would shout without hesitation to the “fake news”. No one with a little political sensibility (and a basic knowledge of mathematics) would dare claim such a thing. But here (in Catalonia), apparently other rules apply to the perception of the political reality in Catalonia.
Constantly, we read articles on “The Catalan struggle for independence” or hear a former Catalan politician speak without contradictory debate of “the Spanish oppression under which lie the Catalan people”. This Catalan people, of whom he has – presumably again unilaterally – made spokesman from his villa in Waterloo. However, here too, the truth has its rights.
Let’s put things in perspective and examine the different moments in which the Catalans actually expressed their democratic voice.
One favorable momentum
Over the past decade, the Catalan independence movement has gained political momentum, leading all political parties to position themselves in this debate.
When we look at the election results of recent years, we find that in 2015, with a voter turnout of 77.4% of voters, a majority of 51.28% of Catalans chose to turn to parties opposed to voting. ‘independence’.
A continuity in the results
Two years later, in 2017, and only a few months after the tumultuous referendum in October, new elections were held. With a record voter turnout rate of 79.1 percent, a majority of 50.71 percent of voters again chose parties that oppose independence. The difference between supporters and opponents of independence remained more or less similar and this proportion was confirmed again in the results of the 2019 European elections.
The light is too often shed on a so-called referendum organized not only against the law but also far from any respectable electoral standard in the West. Even so, only 42% of the voters came forward.
We forget by a curious coincidence that during the 29 elections held over the 43 years since the return of democracy in Spain, the independence parties have never won the representation of a majority of the Catalan people. Never.
A biased electoral system
Proponents of independence have a majority in the Catalan Parliament. However, as in many other cases around the world, the majority of votes do not correspond to the majority of seats. It is the consequence of an electoral system which recognizes a stronger electoral weight in the less populated Catalan provinces to the detriment of that of Barcelona, where 74% of the Catalan population live. Without this sharp correction to the proportional rule, the separatists would never have obtained a parliamentary majority.
A democratic responsibility
Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to question the legitimacy of the Catalan Parliament at all. These are the rules of the game that we all accepted. I only emphasize that politicians elected in this way must also take on their democratic responsibilities. And as is the case with Trump in the United States and Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom, the legitimacy of their access to power does not allow them to ignore the political diversity of the peoples they represent and govern. This becomes especially serious when trying to impose fundamental choices on the whole country.
A motley coalition
I have no problem admitting that a certain unity of independence in their political project, which does not exist on the side that rejects secession, can contribute to this distorted collective image. On the side of those who dream of a Catalan republic, there is a sort of heterogeneous coalition of Christian Democrats, liberals, former socialists and radicals of the left, which has not hitherto prevented a essentially common political action. On the other hand, on the non-independence side, which does not believe in creating new borders in 21st century Europe, we have our differences about how the best relationship with Madrid should be.
It is also true that one must not be independentist to have reservations about the recent verdict of the Spanish Supreme Court. But we are at least all united in that we believe in dialogue and political ways in respect of the fundamental law of Catalonia and the Constitution to move forward, without wishing to put our future and our achievements into play through separatist adventures.
A food for thought for Belgians
“More complicated than I thought!” You may conclude yourself if you have reached here. Yes, it’s complicated. And sad. And frustrating. Belgians, be they Flemish, Walloon, Brussels or German-speaking, will understand it more than any other people. Our crisis in Catalonia is fundamental, social and political. That is why we would like to ask our friends abroad to take a critical look at what is first and foremost a great internal conflict, a family conflict, not just a power struggle “with Madrid”. Everyone is of course free to choose their sides and preferences, or to remain neutral in respect. But let us not lose sight of reality as it is: there is not a majority of Catalans behind the project for independence, and we are more likely to wish to build a common project with the other peoples of Spain .