In English Voices From Spain

Carles Puigdemont: a Nationalist Populist

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Originally published in German: Ein völkischer Populist”. Ulrich Ladurner. Zeit Online.

6th April 2018

A comment by Ulrich Ladurner

The court ruling is still forthcoming in the case of this Catalan, nonetheless, the political evaluation is already quite clear: Mr. Puigdemont’s project is diametrically opposed to European unification.

The Catalan separatist was set free on bail by the Court of Schleswig. The order is duly argued and respectable. Befittingly, it also prompts, implicitly, that the conflict between the separatists and Spain is, in essence, a political conflict. It won’t be solved by judiciary means. One can only hope that this message has been received in Madrid.

Catalan separatists celebrate the preliminary ruling of a German court as the acquittal of their hero, whom they consider politically persecuted. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Puigdemont has not been acquitted, he is not a hero and he is not politically persecuted.

The Court of Schleswig dismissed the charge of “rebellion” that Spanish courts leveled against Mr. Puigdemont. Nevertheless, based on the information currently at its disposal, the court lends credibility to the charge of embezzlement of public funds and it has requested additional documentation from Spain. We will have to wait.

Mr. Puigdemont is no martir

What doesn’t need any wait is Mr. Puigdemont’s political assessment. This man is a nationalist populist. He affords himself the role of determining who is a good Catalan and who isn’t. The good Catalan supports secession from Spain, the rest are bad ones. If they are Catalan at all. Mr Puigdemont’s project is diametrically opposed to European unification – he is a divider, not a uniter.

Mr. Puigdemont and his ilk not only violated the Spanish constitution; they also violated the Catalan statute of autonomy and pit Catalans against Catalans. This didn’t happen by chance but intentionally. Puigdemont-style Catalan separatism is based in constant provocation and the exacerbation of conflict. His escape from Spain is also part of this escalation strategy.

In his travels all over Europe he did what he had already done in Barcelona: present himself as the martir of an allegedly oppressed nation-people. But neither is Mr. Puigdemont a martir nor the Catalans an oppressed people.

What has Mr. Puigdemont done as President?

For too many times, Spain’s central government has fallen in the trap set by the separatist escalation strategy. They haven’t faced Mr. Puigdemont fanaticism with political imagination but with stubbornness.

It was probably apt that the government in Madrid imposed some limits on the separatists back in autumn last year. No government in Europe could tolerate such a flagrant violation of a country’s constitution.

But now would be the right time to politicize the conflict again – this means: looking at specific issues and not at delusions. One could appositely ask what has Mr. Puigdemont achieved for Catalonia during his time as president and after his dismissal.

He didn’t create a single job or managed to reduce waiting times in overcrowded hospitals, nod did he contribute to shed light on the different corruption scandals of his predecessors. In summary: he did nothing that could be construed as sound governance.


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