Whether Catalonia is coming closer to becoming a sovereign state or not, is difficult to determine. September 13, a referendum took place in the municipality Arenys de Munt (Barcelona) and those who want independence won an overwhelming victory. Here is an attempt to map the background and outcome plus explain why I think that this initiative will have future consequences.
In June this year, the political party CUP of Arenys de Munt proposed to hold a local referendum on the Independence of Catalonia and received the support from all other parties represented in the town council, except for the Catalan socialists (PSC). Everybody understood that the idea would provoke reactions and in the last week before the voting date, did a Spanish court rule that the town council (ajuntament) must not be involved, since the question of the referendum was above the local decision making competence. To the surprise of some, the same court ruled that a demonstration against the referendum, planned by the extreme right-wing remnants of dictator Franco’s party, Falange, was perfectly legal.
As a solution, the poll was formally organized by a private entity, the 'Arenys Movement for Autodetermination' (Moviment Arenyenc per a l’Autodeterminació), but followed established voting protocols in the sense that all 6.515 registered (empadronats) inhabitants over 16 years of age were allowed to vote. The question was formulated as whether or not they “agreed that Catalonia becomes a state-of-law, independent, democratic and social and integrated in the European Union”.
The Result of the Referendum
The outcome was a highly encouraging for those who want to see Catalonia as a sovereign state. Of those who voted, 96% (2.569 people) voted yes, while 61 inhabitants voted no and 29 left blank votes. The voter turnout was not fantastic (41%), but on the same level as in many EU parliament elections.
Not surprisingly, the referendum received a lot of attention, not only in Catalonia and other parts of Spain, but also by international media.
Future Consequences of the Arenys Referendum
The referendum of Arenys de Munt has mobilized the Catalan independentistes in a way which I have not seen since we came here in 2005. This movement - or rather, these movements, since it (quite typical for Catalans, I think) is split into many factions - has agreed on December 13 as the day to hold referendums in as many municipalities as possible. What started in Catalan heartlands - the comarques Berguedà and Osona –has spread to a hundred municipalities and will grow further. Today, Barcelona “suburbs” like Gavà and big cities like Tarragona and Reus have announced their possible participation.
The Arenys referendum has also forced a lot of politicians to “come out of the closet”. In the name of social realities and more urgent priorities, these people usually avoid demanding independence, but for their own credibility, they will have to stand up for a “sí” if there is a vote.
Finally, many until now mainstream catalanistes – including members of the ruling socialist party (PSC) - reveal that they do not accept for the autonomy charter (l’Estatut) of Catalonia to be diluted, and that is exactly what is expected to happen when the Spanish Constitutional Court’s finally makes its verdict on it.
The text of the Estatut has been ratified democratically three times: by the Spanish parliament on the highest level, but before that by the Generalitat and subsequently through a referendum in Catalonia. If that is not enough, many Catalans will ask themselves if it makes sense to negotiate about autonomy with Madrid. Before the end of the year we will have a better picture how many prefer a more far-reaching solution.
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In the Penedès area, Vilafranca del Penedès and l’Arboç are among the municipalities which might hold referendums on December 13. Which will be the first socialist stronghold to do the same? Vilanova i la Geltrú?
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Up-date: Here is a September 20 article from El País which suggests that the independentism is now 'coming out of the closet' ("sale del armario").
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Relaterad posts on this blog:
- The Voting Procedure for the Catalan Referendum on Independence
- Catalan Independence and Yet Another Neutral Swede
- Catalan Independence? Coming Sunday Brings Us the Answer
- Catalanism is Not Independentism
- The Referendum in Vilanova – Highly Interesting or Utterly Boring?
- December 13, Catalonia Holds a Referendum on Independence
- Can Catalonia Hold a Referendum om Independence?
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Find here the Wikipedia entries on the Arenys de Munt Referendum, in English and Catalan.
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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Estatut, Independence, Penedès, PSC, Spain, Vilafranca, Vilanova