Sunday December 13, the inhabitants of 161 Catalan municipalities will, for the first time in history, have a chance to in a democratic, united and co-ordinated way, vote whether they want for Catalonia to become a sovereign state. Our adopted town, Vilanova i la Geltrú, is one of them.
“How can Catalan politicians focus on independence when Spanish unemployment figures are among the highest in the EU?”, my wife complained when she first heard about this. The reason is very simple – it is not politicians who set the momentum. The biggest Catalan nationalist party is called CiU and it is telling that its top representative to the Spanish Parliament, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, questions the referendum on the same grounds as her. UDC, his part of the federation which CiU is in reality, does not advocate independence, and CDC, the bigger part, wants to be a Casa Gran, big enough to house independentistes as well as those who want for Catalonia to remain within the state of Spain.
Instead, referendum idea stems from the grass root level and the first one was held this summer in Arenys de Munt. The initiative was taken by CUP - a left-wing group with representation in many town councils but so firmly committed to bottom-up democracy that they do not participate in elections to the Catalan or Spanish parliaments. The event was considered a major success by independence minded Catalans and has resulted in a popular movement of, so called, platforms being created on a municipal level. These co-operate through a co-ordinating organ but are auto-organised and self-financed. Since they have not reached equally far in their preparations, the referendum on this, as Catalans see it, 'national' issue will not take place in the whole of Catalonia nor on the same date. With small Arenys de Munt as a starting point, this will be the second wave and plans are made for at least two more to follow.
Due to Spanish law, the referenda cannot be organized through the existing democratic institutions and that is, of course, a challenge. Since society's established election stations are in public buildings, the platforms are not allowed to make use of them. Except for that, very few platform members have been involved in similar tasks before. In spite of this, there is a strong conviction that the voting process can be carried with full confidentiality and maximum transparency. In Vilanova, it has been confirmed that we will receive international election observes, since we are the second biggest town to vote in this round. The most populous municipality is Sant Cugat del Vallès, home to many Barcelona expats.
Personally, I have taken on a modest responsibility in the local platform VnG decideix (Vilanova i la Geltrú decides) although I consider that I - an immigrant from Sweden - (and this will disappoint many of my local friends) cannot advocate independence from Spain. In coming blog entries, I will try to explain why I think that Catalans should have the right to vote on independence, how the voting will be carried out, how I will vote and why.
Already now, however, do I want to express that I think that the timing is the best possible. Anyone who follows Catalan or Spanish media know that lately they have been full with incredibly big corruption scandals, involving people closely related to all the big traditional parties. The resulting loss of confidence for the political class will now be contrasted with true citizen activism; ordinary people who do not turn to extremist parties, but come together and build a new forum for democratic decision making, albeit only for one issue.
On December 13, in total 707.397 people will have the right to participate. With a high voter turn-out, this referendum has the chance to be the celebration of democracy - una festa de la democràcia – which the platforms want.
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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?
- Arenys de Munt – the First of Many Catalan Referenda
- Can Catalonia Hold a Referendum om Independence?