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Post Is the Catalonian Referendum Constitutional?
Created by John Eipper on 09/22/14 1:49 AM

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Is the Catalonian Referendum Constitutional? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 09/22/14 1:49 am)

A few comments on Anthony J Candil's post about Spain (21 September).  Anthony observed very accurately that the Catalan case is very different from Scottish one, but not only in the historical sense, as he quotes: "Catalonia was in old times part of the kingdom of Aragon (see both flags), and the Basque Country was either part of the kingdom of Navarre or Castile, in opposition to Scotland which was a separate country until 1603, ratified later in 1707, with its own kings."

The fact is that politically and economically the Catalonian and the Basques have a much higher level of autonomy and administration than Scotland or any other region in Great Britain, being Spain in a Spanish way pretty much a "federal" state. This fact raises the question discussed in previous posts about the subject: What are the real motivations for Catalonians to vote for declaring their independence from Spain? I am still waiting for some robust arguments.

Anthony also wrote that "Madrid's government is acting in a very stupid and non-democratic way by opposing the intended referendum; are they afraid that a 'Yes' is coming? All they are doing, in my view, is alienating the Catalan people and giving them more grounds to effectively secede from Spain."

This statement deserves a very important comment, which also should establish a contrast with the Scottish case: The Scottish referendum was authorized by Mr Cameron two years ago, I believe, because he never suspected the independence movement to be strong enough to become a threat. It was a political maneuver, and there was not a legal impediment to do it. I sincerely congratulate the British for the outcome.

In the case of Spain, the Constitution is very explicit: it forbids such referenda, and being either case right or wrong, it is illegal for the government to authorize it. If it is allowed, the government itself would be acting illegally, or it could be very well accused of prevaricating. Might they be intentionally acting stupid? The question is complex and difficult to decide. Perhaps the "stupidity" of the government is not acting in a much more decisive and convincing way, but not otherwise.

Are they acting in a non-democratic way? If the argument is that democracy is basically the right to exercise the vote about anything when anybody wants, according to their own interest and contradicting the country's basic laws, then the answer to this question is affirmative.

Democracy is based in democratic laws, rules, regulations and institutions, and ignoring them to yield to demands from just one part of the society might be considered non-democratic by the rest. Isn't the only rational and legal solution to the problem to reform the Spanish Constitution first, to allow such "political" manifestations?

JE comments:  Proponents of Catalonian independence would probably counter that since the federal Constitution is a legacy of Francoism, it's no surprise it prohibits regional secession.  But it's still the constitution, and this brings up the sticky issue highlighted here by José Ignacio Soler:  the referendum is not lawful, nor would it be lawful for Madrid to authorize it.

My thought:  if Catalonia votes "yes" and then applies for EU membership, won't Madrid specifically raise the question of lawfulness?  I'm not sure if Jordi Molins ever addressed this question:  would Catalonia be prepared to go it alone, without EU membership?  Has this possibility been discussed in Barcelona?  What currency would the new nation adopt, for example?

Next up:  Jordi responds to Anthony Candil.


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