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Post Catalonia and Scotland Referenda Compared
Created by John Eipper on 10/12/17 8:18 AM

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Catalonia and Scotland Referenda Compared (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 10/12/17 8:18 am)

I confess I was a little surprised by John E's questions. When commenting on Ángel Viñas's post of 11 October, John first asked, "Would the Venice Commission have sent observers to the Catalonia Referendum... if Catalonia had asked?" He followed this up with, "Why wasn't Catalonia granted the same privilege Scotland received when it voted on independence?"

John further wrote, "to answer that the 'constitution disallows it' is not fully satisfactory," and finally, "Catalonia's separatists argue that the constitution is unfair, and was written by Francoist holdovers to serve their own interests."

I was surprised because in several previous posts, I fully addressed these questions. If I remember correctly, several other participants in WAIS did so as well. But let me try again to clarify my points and first address a more immediate and basic question.

The October 1st referendum result in Catalonia, besides not being a legal referendum, did not comply with basic standards of any kind. It is therefore not possible to claim legitimacy or credibility. There are other more technical reasons to reach this conclusion, despite what the Catalonian Generalitat, or WAISer Jordi Molins for that matter, argue to the contrary.

But suppose--just suppose!--the Referendum result was legitimate.  I then ask, is it reasonable to claim that 36% of population is a valid measure to justify independence? I believe that such a massive social transition, the separation of a society, with its economic, political, legal, and social impacts, should be decided by a great majority of the population, not a minority voicing its opinion, perhaps or most probably against the will of the majority.

Regrettably, yesterday the Catalonian Generalitat, in an absurd and ridiculous ceremony based on this assumption, declared independence but also its immediate suspension--yes but no at the same time! The declaration reminded me of the Mexican comedian Cantinflas, who is perhaps not so well known by many non-Spanish-speaking WAISers but famous for his frequently absurd, contradictory and ambiguous speaking style.

Well, let me now try to answer JE's questions, regarding the Venice Commission, which for those unfamiliar with it is the EU entity in charge of solving legal matters regarding internal constitutional affairs. This body already stated, in response to a specific consultation from the Generalitat, that the Referendum could not be held in conflict with constitutional law. For this reason it would have been very difficult, and most likely impossible, for them to send or authorize observers.

I am not a lawyer, but regarding the question as to why Catalonia was not granted the same privileges as Scotland--well, it is already clear.  It would have been against the constitution to grant such privileges.  This is not the case for British law, which I presume does not explicitly have anything against such procedures if it is agreed to among the British regions.

But suppose again--just suppose!--that permission had been granted by the Spanish government. In that case, unfortunately they too would have been acting against the law, and being accomplices, they would immediately be legally accountable and most likely accused of prevarication, which would have been unacceptable and politically suicidal.

Finally, it is true that Catalonian separatists argue that the Spanish Constitution is Francoist, but they should remember that this same constitution was approved by 90% of the Catalonian population in a legal--this time it was!--referendum. Catalonia by the way gave it the largest approval percentage of all the Spanish regions. Therefore the "Francoist constitution" argument is just one more of the hackneyed and oft-repeated historical manipulations of the independentistas.

JE comments:  I fully understand the legal argument, but it still is not--sorry!--fully satisfactory.  One could counter the "it's the law" interpretation with many Godwinesque case precedents, such as Dred Scott and Plessy v Ferguson in their day, or Citizens United at present.  Is the right (the legal) always the good

I'm neutral on Catalonian independence, and there are solid points on both sides.  But it's problematic to argue that the Referendum results were wrong on procedural grounds, when the vote itself never had the chance to operate otherwise--read, legitimately with observers and universal participation.  There can only be one result from this:  intransigence on both sides.

Next, Ángel Viñas seconds José Ignacio Soler's view--or thirds it, if we include José Manuel de Prada.


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