In English Voices From Spain

A Sophisticated Nightmare

Publish originally in Spanish. Soledad Gallego-Díaz. El País.

The letter by leading pro-independence politicians and supporters of holding the consultation next October 1st in which they offer the Spanish government and the king to initiate dialogue, cannot have any effect, because it is impossible that the government agrees to negotiate just as it is threatened by disobedience and an illegal consultation. The only real chance for negotiation would come precisely the October 1st, once verified that the consultation has not achieved its main goal: to know what Catalans (a large percentage of them) think about the immediate proclamation of an independent Republic.

In fact, both in the offer to negotiate presented by Artur Mas in 2013, as in the later offer by Carles Puigdemont, the pre-requisite of holding the referendum on self-determination acted as a lock that, as Mariano Rajoy put it, prevented the discussion of other issues. With this lock opened up, the 23 chapters presented by Mas, or the more than forty by its successor, will be really for the first time on the table.

The letter was also addressed to the king, although Spanish monarchy is subject to a parliamentary system that denies the head of the state even the slightest prominence in political disputes of this kind. Some confusion is understandable, since the first to encourage the king to speak was precisely president Rajoy, willing once again to let institutions fight on his behalf, instead of fulfilling his obligations and lead the fight himself in defense of institutions. No matter how much the Popular Party insists: The king is not the guarantor of national’s unity or of constitution (amendable through its own internal mechanisms), but the symbol of the unity and continuity of the state, as also is the president of Germany.

From now to October 1st, what matters more than knowing the response to the mentioned letter is how government will react in the face of the expected escalation next weekend of rallies across Catalonia in support of the referendum. It is evident that PP’s most radical wing is pressing the Spanish government to adopt harsher positions than in November 9th of 2015, for example by activating the National Security Law, but ultimately is Rajoy who has all the power to measure out such response. If he makes a mistake, he will be endangering something more than his government.  

Returning to October 1st, one of the most notable features of the consultation is its immediate effect. What Parliament has commissioned to the Generalitat, without any settlement with its own opposition, is a plan with an impact in every aspect of civic life, from where to deposit the quarterly VAT declaration (Are freelancers expecting that the Generalitat is going to assume the fines imposed to them by the Spanish Tax Agency?), to where to file next income tax return (Does anyone really think that the Generalitat is going to “refund” the proportion of their salaries or pensions held by the Spanish Tax Office if one fails to meet his/her fiscal obligations?).

The most contradictory aspect is that the worst nightmare for the consultation promoters is winning by 90%. Such overwhelming result would not be a victory, but the worst defeat possible, since no one, neither in Catalonia nor in international community, can believe that a 90% of “yes” votes accurately reflects the Catalan society’s position. The larger the percentage of support, the more evidence of lack of due procedural safeguards. So, for the time being, independence supporters need a campaign for “yes” in the morning, while trying to persuade a sufficient number of people to vote “no” in the evening. Sophisticated.  

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