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Post Catalonia Parliamentary Elections: Independentists Triumph
Created by John Eipper on 12/23/17 4:42 AM

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Catalonia Parliamentary Elections: Independentists Triumph (Istvan Simon, USA, 12/23/17 4:42 am)

Catalonian separatists have won the election set up by the Central Government in Madrid, proving that several WAISers were wrong when they defended here the (to me) obvious truth that the Catalonians do not want Madrid to govern them.

I hope that these WAISers will now admit in this Forum that they were wrong, and that Jordi Molins and I (who as I said before am neutral on this issue) were correct.

JE comments: WAISers as a species are fond of being correct. I am in a news vacuum in Cuba, but my quick reading of the Parliamentary elections is that the Unionist/Constitutionalist Ciudadanos party was the largest single recipient of the votes, and that the pro-Independence vote was larger but divided among different parties.  The undisputed loser in the election was PM Mariano Rajoy.  His Partido Popular plummeted to just three seats.  I hope our two Catalonian colleagues on opposite sides of the issue, Jordi Molins and José Manuel de Prada, will send their analyses.


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  • Catalonia's Parliamentary Elections (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain 12/24/17 3:38 AM)
    That a large segment of Catalan society is in favor of independence is something nobody here, as far as I remember, has ever denied. (See Istvan Simon, 23 December.)

    With a turnout of 81.94% (the highest since the Catalan Parliament was restored in 1979), the recent elections show that a majority of Catalans, no less that 52.1%, do not want independence, versus 47.49% that do.


    So it is clear that, in terms of popular votes, there is no secessionist majority in Catalonia.


    Furthermore, although the secessionist parties got about 200,000 new votes, their percentage has diminished (in 2014 they were 47.8%), and so has their majority (they now have 70 seats, versus 72 in 2015). A majority which, by the way, is the product of the current electoral system, which gives a disproportionate number of seats to the less-populated areas, which happen to be those in which nationalist have more support (with a more proportional system there would be no nationalist majority now).


    This is hardly the overwhelming victory Puigdemont claims it is. Yet, as it was to be feared, he and his accomplices don't make this interpretation of the results, as if they were trapped for life in the parallel reality they have created for themselves and their movement since Artur Mas stared this whole nightmare in 2012.


    As JE says, Ines Arrimadas, of Ciutadans, has been the single most-voted party, but Puigdemont hasn't even bothered to acknowledge that, in line with the usual nationalist attitude of completely ignoring those that do not think like them. This is is one of the key factors that makes of the current movement for independence a xenophobic and racist one. They remind me of a moment in Jerzy Kawalerowicz's fine 1977 movie "Death of a President," set in 1922, in which the leader of a national-Catholic party, when asked about the vote of the representatives of ethnic minorities in Poland, replies something like "Foreigners have no right to decide the destiny of Poland," or words to that effect. The attitude of Puigdemont & Co. towards non-nationalists, immigrants and other "undesirables" is the very same.


    The moderate Catalanism of Miquel Iceta (PSC), of the socialist party, has scarcely progressed. His bizarre alliance for the residual Christian-democrats of Unió is probably one of the reasons. A lot of non-nationalist left-leaning votes, my own included, have gone to Ciutadans, as the only reasonable option.


    Interestingly, the most extremist parties, Rajoy's Partido Popular and the extreme-left CUP, which in 2015 had 11 and 10 seats respectively, have seen their number of seats sharply reduced, to 3 and 4, respectively. Sadly, the 4 seats of the CUP are essential for Puigdemont and his accomplices (who, otherwise, would be in the minority), so, as before, this small group of anti-system thugs will have a disproportionate influence in whatever is going to happen from now on.


    I hope the jailed nationalist leaders will be freed on bail soon, and that some solution is found to get Puigdemont and friends back. Rajoy's policy in this regard has been counterproductive and is to be hoped that he has realized this now that the campaign of his party in these elections has proved disastrous.


    I also hope that Puigdemont will snap out of it and moderate his position, put the "process" on pause and, if given a chance, form a government that rules for everybody and addresses Catalonia's pressing problems instead of further dividing our society and diverting funds a resources.


    My feeling, as that of many people here, is that we had hardly moved from where we were, and that we are heading for another difficult period.


    JE comments:  How is it that every society we observe (US, UK, Poland, Catalonia, Cuba...) is so sharply divided?  Is there something about our times, or perhaps our technology, that drags people to intransigent positions?


    Christmas greetings to José Manuel de Prada, and many thanks for this analysis.  Later today we depart for Havana, and homeward on the morrow (Christmas day).  Our ten days in Cuba have been a singular learning experience.  I'll bombard the Forum with photos once the bandwidth permits.

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    • Catalonia's Parliamentary Elections: Constitutionalists are Sore Losers (Jordi Molins, Spain 12/26/17 9:01 AM)

      Republican political parties won an absolute majority in the December 21st Catalonian elections.


      The recent post of José Manuel de Prada (24 December) contains several factually wrong statements.  On the one hand, the Popular Party obtained four seats, not three. On the other hand, José Manuel includes "Catalunya en Comú" in the group of political parties that "do not want independence," arguing that such a bloc obtained 52.1% of the votes. This is false, since CeC has repeatedly stated they are "neither independentists/republicans nor constitutionalists." For example, polls show 98% of CeC voters reject the application of the infamous "Article 155," which resulted in the Spanish government intervening in the Catalan government. The Constitutionalist bloc got fewer votes than the Republican bloc: 1.8 million votes versus 2.3 million votes.


      But what surprises me the most is the statement "the current movement for independence [is] a xenophobic and racist one."  The number of xenophobic or racist comments by Republican politicians during the electoral campaign has been exactly zero. This outcome is reasonable, since Republican political parties have supported the "Refugees Welcome" movement for a long time, while the Constitutionalist parties were overwhelmingly absent from such street demonstrations.


      But most importantly, a big part of the needed background to understand the final result of these elections is missing from José Manuel's analysis:


      The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, is in exile in Brussels, as well as some of his Ministers. The Vice-President, Oriol Junqueras, is in a Spanish prison, as well as some of other Catalan Ministers and leaders of civic movements (for example, Òmnium, the organization that clandestinely taught the Catalan language during the Franco dictatorship).


      Borrell, a member of the Socialist party which has appeared already on WAIS, stated: "We need to disinfect Catalonia."  Borrell also made denigrating jokes about Junqueras. Junqueras, with a small child, is spending Christmas in prison: the lack of humanity of Borrell's speech (which can obviously seen not only from Borrell's verbal language, but especially, from his non-verbal language) is distressing, and is consistent with the dehumanization process that Spanish nationalists are suffering, against the Catalan Republicans. Borrell also stated: "They will force us to use violence against them."


      Iceta, the leader of the Catalan Socialists, said that Junqueras was an "Osito" (little bear). Let me recall that when Junqueras was detained, a Spanish policeman famously stated that Junqueras was an "Osito," obviously implying he would be raped in prison. The apparent analogy in the use of such a word in Iceta's comment is distressing; I have to assume Iceta simply did not know the existence of such a rape threat to Junqueras.


      Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Ciudadanos, stated during the campaign: "It is the moment of the normal people." The dehumanizing component of the anormality/infection comments by the Constitutionalist bloc leaders is again evident.


      Xavier Garcia-Albiol, the leader of the Popular Party, stated during the campaign: "They have not chastened. Go for them!" ("a por ellos", in Spanish, with a striking violent connotation).


      Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the Spanish vice-President, and the executive leader of the "Article 155" actions of the Spanish government in Catalonia, stated: "We [the Spanish government] have decapitated the independentists." This phrase is a recognition that the recent actions in Catalonia against Republican politicians have been taken by the Spanish Executive, not the Justice system, and the separation of powers in Spain is a joke.


      The electoral process has been distressingly faulty: from the obvious fact that the main Republican leaders were either in exile or in jail, to life threats by military men on top of tanks of the Spanish army, to the obvious panic of journalists on Catalan TV and radio channels during the campaign (there were direct threats by the Constitutionalists to close all the Catalan media if they did not behave properly), while the Spanish channels became an arm for propaganda of Ciudadanos. Ciudadanos has become the political party of the Spanish elites, since they are more easily controllable than the Popular Party. Spain's traditional media, under a strong crisis in their business model (Spaniards do not buy newspapers anymore), depend on banks to provide loans for their financial survival. Spanish banks are owned by the Spanish elite, so Spanish media have to shamefully bow to the pressures of the elite, and stop working as independent media, but just as propagandists. There is no independent media in Spain anymore.


      Attacks by neo-Nazis, Francoists, Falangists and Fascists have kept unabated during the electoral campaign, with more than one hundred victims in Catalonia. Of course, Spanish media simply ignore these vicious attacks against immigrants and independentists, so the Spanish society simply ignores the blood spilled in Catalonia in the name of the "sacred unity of Spain."


      There is still no hard data about Catalan GDP growth for the last months, but advanced indicators suggest that the threats by the Constitutionalists that the Catalan economy would tank if the Republicans won were simply wrong: the Catalan economy is booming, with massive influxes of foreign investment, and record growth rates for exports. It seems unlikely the next set of GDP figures will result in a contraction.


      It is still not known if Puigdemont will be able to become the next Catalan President. For sure, he has an absolute majority of seats at the Catalan Parliament supporting him (the CUP is not even needed, since the two main Republican political parties, center-left and center-right, have more seats than the whole opposition together). But it seems likely Puigdemont will be detained if he crosses the Spanish border to attend the first Catalan Parliament session.


      Irrespective of what eventually happens, what is clear is the Constitutionalists are sore losers.


      JE comments:  Rajoy, whose party was trounced at the polls, could be the sorest loser of all.  What predictions to the WAISitudes have for Catalonia in 2018?


      Junqueras must be getting lots of "Mandela points" among the Republicans.  Is he now more popular than Puigdemont?  Jordi, what have you observed?

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      • Catalonia's Parliamentary Elections, 21 December 2017 (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 12/28/17 11:29 AM)
        I was not surprised by Jordi Molins's biased perceptions and analysis (26 December) of Catalonia's parliamentary elections, but I was not expecting them to be so contradictory.

        Jordi wrote, "The Constitutionalist bloc got fewer votes than the Republican bloc: 1.8 million votes versus 2.3 million votes." I suppose he is counting in his total for the so-called "Republican bloc," the votes for the CeC party. In fact, this party might be Republican but not independentist, for as Jordi himself mentions, they are "neither independentist/republicans nor constitutionalists," ergo it is impossible for their votes to be counted among the independentist or Republican bloc. In fact leaders of this party have clearly and repeatedly stated they do not want Cataluña to be independent. They have only said they would be in favor of a referendum on the matter.


        Jordi should try to be more objective. I know it must be hard for him to admit that the independentists do not have a majority in Catalonian society, but once again this fact has been clearly exposed and even admitted repeatedly, both in the past and as a result of this election, by independentist leaders.


        Regarding José Manuel de Prada´s comment, "the current movement for independence [is] a xenophobic and racist one," I tend to agree with this. There are many implicit and disguised ways to express xenophobia and racism. I personally know many Catalonian independentists who in private show contempt to foreigners, and more particularly to fellow Spaniards from other regions, for instance Madrid, Andalucia or Galicia, and of course Muslims. Of course no one would dare to make these statements publicly, since they are politically incorrect. In general, it must be hard to find a nationalist movement anywhere which is not strongly motivated by regionalism, a basic sentiment against foreigners, a kind of supremacy feeling of being different and superior in some ways. Catalonia's Nationalistic-independentist movement would not be an exception.


        All the Catalonian politicians mentioned by Jordi, whether in exile or jail, are in that situation only because they have broken the law. As I have said previously, I disagree with this severe punishment from Spain's Justice system, but it is in accordance with the law and not an arbitrary decision of the Spanish government, as the independentists want the public to believe.


        Finally, I would like to agree with Jordi's optimistic view about the economic situation in Catalonia during the current crisis, because it will affect the whole economy of Spain; but like many other independentists, Jordi prefers to ignore facts and data, because everybody in the economics field is aware of the negative impacts of the economic crisis in so many ways (in previous WAIS posts I mentioned some of these impacts). In this matter I would very much like to agree with Jordi; however, I will predict that the economic problems and difficulties will continue to come in the short and medium term as a result of the recent votes.


        JE comments: Is it possible to resolve the xenophobia question vis-à-vis Catalonia? Each side is accusing the other of racism and xenophobia. The ultra-right, neo-Francoist crowd is certainly against independence, but isn't anti-Spanish sentiment among the Republicans also xenophobic? And finally, what about the (non-Spanish) immigrant question? Specifically, do Catalonia's Muslims favor independence?


        (WAIS was down for several hours this morning.  Sorry about the delay.)


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        • The Catalan Economy is Not Collapsing (Jordi Molins, Spain 12/29/17 4:13 AM)
          In my post of December 26th, I incorrectly stated that "The Constitutionalist bloc got fewer votes [in Catalonia's parliamentary election] than the Republican bloc: 1.8 million votes versus 2.3 million votes."

          The final electoral results show the Republican bloc got 2.1 million votes, and the Constitutionalists, 1.9 million votes. The reason of my mistake is the results at the time of writing that email were only provisional. I did not foresee the very low proportion of voting among Catalans living in foreign countries (the participation was provisionally announced to be 82%, as per José Manuel de Prada's last post, but the final results show only a 79% participation), which skewed my estimate.


          I hope WAISers appreciate a data-based approach in political analysis. Everybody has an opinion, but when providing data backing up one's claims, one has to be much more careful about stating seductive, but wrong, hypotheses. Most Constitutionalists writing on WAIS do not provide data to back up their claims, making much more difficult a comparison of the merits of both sides, using a fact-based approach.


          In my opinion, the reason why Constitutionalists do not provide data is they have none. For example, yesterday the AIReF (the Spanish equivalent for the Congressional Budget Office) estimated the Catalan GDP growth for 2017 Q4 at 0.7%, and 0.8% for 2018 Q1. This GDP growth is higher than the corresponding for 2016 Q4, and consistent with around 3% YoY GDP growth, which is pretty high for European standards. The claims the Catalan economy would collapse in the last quarter of the year, which was repeatedly stated during the electoral campaign by the Constitutionalists, have proved to be ill-founded. It is not possible to estimate how many Catalans voted for Constitutionalist political parties due to that fear, believing the Constitutionalists could not cheat in such an indecent way.


          The comments about an unfair electoral law in Catalonia are also unfounded: the Catalan electoral law is ruled by the Spanish law 5/1985. The Catalan Parliament has never changed that Spanish law, so the Catalan electoral process was defined by the Spanish Parliament on 1985. That law may be fair or not; but such responsibility is on the Spanish Parliament, not on the Catalan Parliament (as implicitly suggested by several Constitutionalist WAISers).


          The Spanish Senate skews much more the number of seats towards small constituencies: a vote in Soria is worth around four times a vote in Madrid, resulting in systematic absolute majorities for the Popular Party. The Spanish Senate started the application of the "article 155" in Catalonia. I do not see Constitutionalists in WAIS complaining about it.


          Finally, again the issue of racism and xenophobia in Catalonia: apart from opinions, Constitutionalists in WAIS do not provide a single piece of evidence about the supposed xenophobia by the Republicans. Instead, I believe I have provided ample evidence of a distressing dehumanization process on the Constitutionalists' side. Republicans support the "Refugees Welcome" campaign, and they are mostly composed of Catalans of mixed origin (such as myself). There is not a single piece of evidence that Republican leaders are racist or xenophobic, quite the opposite. As a consequence, repeated accusations of xenophobia are, in fact, a clear case of xenophobia.


          JE comments:  Jordi, what are the next steps?  My preliminary question:  Will the new Parliament be able to use its majority to bring back Puigdemont, or will Madrid's final say still apply?

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