By Malick Nythern Doucoure
With waves still settling from the recent Tsunami that was the Catalan independence referendum and its aftermath, a show of unity and respect for democratic process and tradition is necessary from both sides. Catalonia is not Spain – it never has been! The region has a distinct language, culture and some would say even a distinct ethnicity to those in Madrid. The Catalan language is derived directly from common Latin, not Castilian Spanish – a frequent misconception used by many to promote a message of unity through a common linguistic heritage.
On the other hand, 98% of those residing in Barcelona – the de facto and de jure capital of Catalonia – speak Spanish, thus saying it would be foolish to dismiss the link between Catalans and Spaniards, would be an understatement to say the least. However it is the frequent grouping of Catalan culture, linguistics and heritage as part of a greater Spanish cultural grouping that has driven a desire of independence for many Catalans. Unlike Great Britain, heritage & cultural distinctions that inherently come with different regions have historically been swept aside and suppressed, especially under the Franco Regime. One could potentially be justified in saying the consequences of Franco’s cultural actions – the suppression of a cultural identity often leads to a desire to preserve said identity by those affected – has manifested itself through the Catalan independence movement, a movement that has finally reached its peak.
The Government in Madrid is not to blame for Franco’s actions many decades ago, but neither does this mean people in Catalonia have forgotten the misdeeds inflicted upon them by those in Madrid.
The people of Catalonia have already had their will suppressed by those in Madrid once. Recent events suggest History is unfortunately repeating itself.
It surprises me that as of this date, there has not been a single major resignation following the brutal crackdown on peaceful, democratic civilians by the Guardia Civil. Beating down civilians won’t defeat an independence movement. Presenting logical, reasonable arguments and promising more devolution is the way to go, as seen with the results of the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum.
On the other hand, I believe the Catalan government would’ve happily engaged in a legally binding, political discussion on holding a valid, legitimate referendum on Independence. That’s not to say that they would’ve easily won – the illegal referendum overwhelmingly voted in favour of independence, 92% in fact, but with a turnout of only 43%. For those who would’ve voted against Catalan Independence, the message from Madrid was simple: Don’t vote.
This would suggest that nearly as many people would have likely voted against Independence had the referendum been legal. It goes without saying that 43% of the populace overwhelmingly voting in favour of Independence – without any official debates involving any opposition – isn’t enough to speak and more importantly, act, on behalf of all eligible voters in the Catalonia region. Carles Puigdemont would be lying to himself if he goes forward with his Independence plans – something he’s already signalled as of this date – with what he believes to be the backing of an overwhelming amount of Catalans.
And thus we reach a moral impasse. It would be unjustified to move forward with plans for independence using relatively weak results (turnout wise) from an illegal independence vote. On the other hand, getting a decent turnout is nearly impossible without legal legitimacy and validation for an independence referendum from the Spanish Government in Madrid. The only valid, morally and legally justified way forward is for a legal referendum vote, just like the Scottish one of 2014, to take place.
To conclude, the Spanish Government must respect the democratic principle of self determination – Apart from its constitutional/legal ground, it has no right to deny millions of people self-determination and deserves condemnation for its recent actions. On the other hand the Catalan government has no right to go forward with Independence and enforce a controversial declaration using a majority who could easily actually be opposed to it. Hostilities between both sides (although at the moment it seems the Catalan Government are victims of Spanish state violence) must cease and through unity, the democratic principle of self-determination must be respected by all.
Featured image is from Zerohedge
Second image is from JAUME SELLART EFE