Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash
Originally published in Spanish: “Exclusión y conflicto”. Editorial. El País.
13th may 2018
Torra’s speech pushes Catalan society towards clash
A day after showing his -we now know insincere- regret over racist and xenophobic remarks expressed on social networks, Quim Torra went up to the Catalan parliament podium with a precise mission: making clear to all political forces represented in parliament, inside and outside Catalonia, and to the Government, and hence to all Spaniards, that the secessionist movement, far from acknowledging any mistake of the many and grave ones they have made so far, is willing to double the bet in their pursuit of unilateral and illegal independence.
Torra doesn’t seem deterred by the fact that this goal has divided Catalan society like never before, forced thousands of companies to move away from Catalonia, given way to a temporary suspension of self-government and made the leaders of such colossal folly end up in prison. On the contrary, it seems to spur him to push forward along the path institutional conflict and civil clash.
The candidate to the presidency seems neither to care that his goals require, once again, to trample over the institutions of self-government, the will of Catalan society, the rights of parliamentary members, the courts of justice, the statute of autonomy and the Spanish Constitution. With Torra, secessionism takes the mask off once again and shows that, in the road to independence, democracy and individual rights are wholly dispensable. The building of an independent republic becomes a religious faith that intrinsically legitimizes all means used to achieve it without the need to refer to any legal or democratic framework or show any respect for citizens’ rights.
What is most grave and concerning is that his speech, harsh, demagogic and devoid of the slightest concession or acknowledgment towards anyone who may harbor different political views in Catalan society, can only be understood as a direct provocation to the State to achieve, via “the worst it gets, the better”, an internationalization of the issue that favor secessionist interest and help overcome democrats.
Nothing of the sort will happen. The European Union will not endorse the dangerous turn towards conflict that Torra is outlining. And neither the State nor the Constitution will be defeated by this new secessionist push. There’s no doubt that the State will react, timely and forcefully, to any attempt at overstepping the statute of autonomy. That is why Catalan society is the one that should be the most greatly concerned about Torra’s speech.
Because, just like it happened with Puigdemont, the only likely consequence of trying to bring forth independence will be the estrangement of self-government or its emptying. And because a new secessionist thrust will split society and sink the economy.
The previous Catalan legislature, abruptly ended by the invocation of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, was pervaded with improvisation, short-term maneuvering and doubt within the secessionist camp. The procés advanced sideways, in a way that course and goal line could never be ascertained. But now the situation is quite different, because where Puigdemont improvised, the current candidate is setting out a detailed scenario that can only lead to conflict and chaos.
By affirming that Puigdemont is the legitimate president, Torra is doing himself a revealing disservice: he acknowledges that he lacks any legitimacy to govern other than the wishes of a former president who fled because he broke the laws that regulate social harmony in Catalonia. Is Torra the man in whom a majority of the regional parliament will place its confidence for its political and economic future?
Elsewhere in Europe, it would be unfathomable that anyone with Torra’s xenophobic and exclusionary credentials could lead a police force of more than 17,000 members, collect taxes to organize public services, educate their kids with respect for plurality and guarantee quality and rigor in the information produced and broadcasted by public media. But all this, it seems, is indeed possible in the Catalonia of today’s secessionists, so detached from the values and principles that always made it great.
Torra’s appointment, if it happens, will demand a clear and strong response from constitutionalist forces, of course ,by legal means when laws are broken, but, specially, from a political point of view. Secessionists have make clear they have one policy: provocation. Constitutionalists need to articulate their own, one that goes beyond simply reacting to each new step in that provocation.