Friday, 4 December 2009

The Referendum in Vilanova – Highly Interesting or Utterly Boring?

Among the 161 municipalities which, on December 13, hold a referendum on whether Catalonia should be independent, our town stands out as an exception. While almost all other towns in question are governed by Catalan Nationalist parties, the politics of Vilanova i la Geltrú is dominated by the socialists (PSC). Now, that is quite similar to the situation in Catalonia as a whole and that, as I see it, makes us the most interesting town to follow this time.

Ordinary elections to various decision-making bodies partially attract different layers of the municipality's inhabitants. In elections to the parliament of Catalonia, the Catalan nationalist CiU are generally better to mobilize their voters. Vice versa, PSC usually has a relatively stronger support in elections to the Spanish Parliament. But even if we take these two levels and add the town council and the EU Parliament, the outcome is invariably the same: Vilanova wants for Catalonia to remain Spanish. Between 50% a 68% of people vote for parties which advocate a stronger united Spain (PP), the status-quo (PSC) or a federal Spanish state (ICV-EuiA; the Catalan green party). Add to that the fact that one part of the CiU - UDC - does not want independence, while the other one - CDC - only wants it when the time is right and you get a picture of a very conformist town.

That the referendum platform VNG decideix at all came about is only thanks to a citizen initiative – it did not originate from the established parties. The latter, however, have subsequently surprised at least me, since the town council has decided to give moral support to the referendum (direct support is not permitted under Spanish law, as we have learnt from Arenys de Munt). As expected, the PP and the PSC voted against, but CUP (a Catalan nationalist and anti-establishment party), CiU and Esquerra (the traditional Catalan nationalist left) won over ICV-EuiA, especially after VNG Decideix, represented by Pol Molas, had made a parallel between the platforms and grassroot democracy - one of this party's core principles: "We believe that giving a voice to the Catalan people to decide what it wants to be, that is to seek the essence democracy" (my translation of: "Considerem que donar veu al poble català per decidir què vol ser és anar a l’essència de la democràcia").

This week, the information letter on the referendum will reach people's mailboxes, and last Saturday the campaign officially began. Posters put up by VNG Decideix already dominates all public notice boards. The first banners which appeared in the streets came (who is surprised?) from the CUP - straightforwardly advocating a 'yes': "IndependenSÍa". A quite different campaign will by run the CDC and this Wednesday we got a sample of it when Felip Puig, from that party's leadership, came here. He did not actively promote a 'yes', but encouraged people to think about the matter and take the referendum seriously. Finally, there is no doubt that Esquerra will show their support for a 'yes', but so far I have not seen anything.

What remains to see is how the average Vilanova inhabitant will react. Since the referendum is not official, the approach of the 'no'-side will most likely be to avoid debate and thereby pass the message to its potential voters and, above all, the many who do not really want to or cannot take a stand, that it is acceptable to stay home.

A low voter turnout is expected and will be met with a total disinterest and even by local media. But, on the other hand, if Vilanova surprises - either by a high number of affirmative votes, or if the no-voters choose to participate and thereby win – then our city will become a reference far beyond the borders of Catalonia. I hope for an exciting referendum and therefore repeat a call originally made by VNG decideix: "Yes? No? Blank? It does not matter: Vote! " ("Sí? No? Blanc? Tant se val: Vota!")

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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
- December 13, Catalonia Holds a Referendum on Independence
- Arenys de Munt – the First of Many Catalan Referenda
- Can Catalonia Hold a Referendum om Independence?

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Technorati tags: Catalonia, CiU, Convergència, CUP, Independence, PSC, Referendum, Spain, Vilanova,

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