Sunday, 9 November 2014

Catalans vote in symbolic referendum on independence in defiance of Spain

More than two million Catalans defied a Spanish court and voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence Sunday in a symbolic exercise that vividly brought home both the resolve of Catalan nationalists and the obstacles they face.
The vote, overseen largely by volunteers and boycotted by most independence opponents, wasn’t binding and had little international credibility. But Catalans pointed to the high turnout, despite legal and logistical hurdles, to bolster their case to be permitted to hold a formal, binding referendum on separating their wealthy region from Spain.
“We’ve earned the right,” said Catalan leader Artur Mas, after casting his ballot. Catalonia’s government estimated that 2.25 million people had participated. The region has about 6 million eligible voters.
The atmosphere on the streets of Barcelona was festive, as young and old made their way to polling stations across the city, some with Catalan flags wrapped around them and others snapping selfies as they cast their ballots.In an unofficial two-question 'consultation' organised by the regional government, Catalans will be asked: Would you like a vote on self-determination? If yes, would you like an independent Catalonia? Despite the Spanish government insisting that it will not be recognised, indeed that the very event will be considered unlawful, poll data suggests that a majority will vote 'yes, yes'.Catalonia population: 7.5m
catalonia 300x225 Catalonia is following Scotland towards independence referendum in 2014
Catalonia: 32,114 sq km (roughly the size of Portugal)
National anthem
Catalonia: “Els Segadors” / The Reapers
The Catalan constitutions CatalanConstitucions catalanes were promulgated by the Corts of Barcelona. The Corts in Catalan have the same origin as courts in English (the sovereign's councillors or retinue) but instead meaning the legislature. The first constitution was promulgated by the Corts of 1283. The last ones were promulgated by the Corts of 1702. The compilations of the constitutions and other rights of Catalonia followed the Roman tradition of the Codex.The territory that now constitutes the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain was first settled during the Middle Palaeolithic. Like the rest of the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, it was colonized by Ancient Greeks and Carthaginians and participated in the pre-Roman Iberian culture.As with the rest of Hispania, the area that is now Catalonia was part of the Roman Empire, it then came under Visigothic rule after collapse of the western part of the empire. In 718, the area was occupied by the Moors and became a part of Muslim ruled al-Andalus. The Frankish Empire conquered the area from the Muslims, beginning with the conquest of Roussillon in 760 and ending with the conquest of Barcelona in 801, as part of the creation of a larger buffer zone of Christian counties known as the Marca Hispanica.In time, the counties of the region gave up their allegiance to the rulers of the Franks and their successors and became attached, as a self-governing principality under the Count of Barcelona, to the Crown of Aragon. Catalonia became the main base for the Crown of Aragon's naval power and expansionism, that spread into  Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and later into Sardinia, Sicily, Naples and, briefly, Athens. An identifiably Catalan culture developed in the later Middle Ages under the hegemony of the counts of Barcelona.

Catalan protest
In Barcelona, David Cameron is regarded as something of hero – a true democrat – for allowing Scots to vote. Why, they ask, will the Spanish prime minister in Madrid, Mariano Rajoy, whose politics are similar to Cameron's, not afford Catalans the same privilege?
he answer to the Catalans' question is simple: Scots have been granted their referendum because a pro-Union Westminster government doesn't think they will vote in favour. In Barcelona, Rajoy knows that the Catalans cannot be similarly trusted.

But both men have a problem. If Scots do buck expectations and support independence – a poll at the end of July suggested the undecideds were leaning towards a split – Cameron will almost certainly have to resign. The man who, after 307 years, couldn't keep the Union together could not possibly be expected to sort out the resulting mess. The problems of the UK's nuclear weapons (based in Scotland), the Queen; sterling; borders; international treaties and so on could not be trusted to a man who had allowed Scotland to vote. And lost.
Rajoy has a bigger problem. At No 10, David Cameron can cross his fingers and hope that the problem will go away, and it probably will. Despite a fairly lacklustre 'no' campaign (a factor that is persuading some ardent unionists in Scotland to consider voting 'yes'), Scotland is likely to remain British.Rajoy doesn't have the luxury of a definitive referendum. Everyone knows that Catalonia – for a long time one of Spain's most important sources of revenue – will probably back independence in its unofficial poll, and so the Madrid government hides behind the Spanish constitution, which apparently doesn't allow for Catalans to decide their own future. And the row becomes ever more entrenched and bitter.atalonia took a step towards independence last month, announcing plans for a referendum on the region’s status within Spain.  The Declaration of Sovereignty of the Catalan People, passed by the Catalan parliament, marks the start of a “National Transition” for reconsidering Catalonia’s constitutional arrangement.
There are now striking similarities — as well as important differences — between the Catalan independence movement, led by Prime Minister Arthur Mas of the Convergencia i Unio (CiU) party, and that of the Scottish Government, led by the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond. Both regions plan to hold referendums on their constitutional futures in 2014 but the two nationalist movements face divergent challenges in their campaigns for self-determination.
Hoping to capitalize on strong nationalist sentiment, spurred by street-protests in Barcelona, the Catalan Capital, and gain an outright majority in support of a referendum, Mr. Mas held snap elections last October. Though Mr. Mas’ party fell short of his ambitions, the CiU and the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), in addition to other smaller parties, won a majority favoring self-determination in the Catalan Parliament.
The recent “Declaration of Sovereignty of the Catalan People” was a collaborative effort from the CiU, the Parliament’s largest party, and the ERC, which holds the second most seats and remains in opposition. Though Mr. Mas originally intended to initiate the “National Transition” and call for a referendum by 2017 without conceding to the left-wing ERC’s position on holding the vote earlier, and resistance to issues like curbing welfare spending in an independent Catalonia, the two parties are in firm agreement that there needs to be a referendum.
The Spanish federal government is far less amenable to the referendum proposed by the Catalan Parliament than the United Kingdom is regarding Scotland’s independence. The Queen’s Privy Council formally passing a Section 30 order is the final step granting Scotland the legal authority to hold a referendum, determining its status within the UK, a process initiated by the Edinburgh Agreement signed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Mr. Salmond last October.
The Spanish parliament in Madrid is threatening legal action to stop Catalonia’s referendum on the grounds that it violates the federal constitution, which establishes “the indissoluble unity” of Spain’s seventeen autonomous regions. Though the Spanish government stated its resolve to reject Catalonia’s recent declaration, there are arguments for constitutional alternatives, such as a  “non-referendum consultation,” or the federal government permitting a referendum due to “special importance.”
Grievances put forward in support of self-determination for Scotland and Catalonia reverberate across other nationalist movements. In the autumn of 2012, when Scotland’s Edinburgh Agreement was signed, a notable achievement for the pro-independence SNP, and Catalonia saw massive nationalist demonstrations return the CiU to the Catalan Parliament with a majority favoring self-determination: Bart de Wever of the Flemish Nationalist Party (NVA) took a commanding position in the Dutch area of Belgium after regional elections; The Basque Nationalist Party, Eusko Alderdi Jeltzalea (EAJ-PNV), and EH Bildu, a nationalist coalition, won the first and second most votes respectively in the Basque region of Spain’s parliament; and in Bavaria, despite a relatively weak separatist movement, there was a widely publicized critique by longtime journalist Wilfried Scharnagl supporting the region’s independence from Germany.
This wave of nationalism has been attributed to the austerity imposed after Europe’s recent financial crisis, highlighting a “North-South” divide between creditor and debtor states within the E.U. The divide has also become apparent internally, amongst individual countries with regional discrepancies in revenue and spending, as is the case in Spain. The European Union, meanwhile presents a viable backdrop for separatist movements, unhappy with their current arrangement and whatever historical grievances, to argue for their own independent country — with representation, protection, and financial cohesion through a wider-body.

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