Let me begin by providing a list of relevant facts and details:
–In Sunday’s regional elections in Catalonia, separatism won 72 parliamentary seats, an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament.
–Any pre-existing ambiguities have now been put to rest: Catalonia will have a separatist government and a parliamentary majority that will work toward declaring independence from Spain. Three years ago the number of MPs who explicitly supported independence was 24, those of ERC and CUP. Today, there are 72 separatist MPs.
–For the first time in history a joint list has carried each and every administrative region. This had never happened before, and it is the doing of Junts pel Sí.
–The separatist option won in 907 municipalities; the unionist option, in 35.
–Together, Junts pel Sí and CUP obtained 48% of the vote. David Cameron called the referendum after the SNP won the election with 44% of the vote. Before the first referendum in Quebec, the Parti Québécois won the 1976 election with 41.37% of the vote; before the second referendum, the same party won the 1994 elections with 44.75% of the vote.
–The separatist option carried the city Barcelona, with 47.24% of the votes, and CUP obtained better results than Catalunya Sí que es Pot, Podemos’s local brand.
–In June, polls showed 33 seats going to CiU, 31 to Catalunya Sí que es Pot, and 19 to ERC. Three months later, the tally is 62 seats for the separatists and 11 for Podemos’s offshoot. The pro-independence vote has mobilized.
–This election has seen a record voter turnout, which translates into greater democratic legitimacy than ever.
–Catalunya Sí que es Pot has been a shocking fiasco. Iniciativa per Catalunya, a regional party that ran in these elections as part of the left-wing coalition, has lost two seats and has obtained only five thousand more votes under Podemos’s local brand than it did in the elections of three years ago running on its own. And the blame for this failure lies with Pablo Iglesias, who has employed aggressive tactics and tried to use Spanish nationalism in his favour.
–The PP is the first political force in Spain and the fifth in Catalonia. In Lleida, even the anti-capitalist pro-independence CUP has had better results. In Catalonia as a whole, the difference in the number of votes cast for CUP and PP is just over ten thousand.
–The Spanish government’s tampering with the absentee ballots of Catalans residing abroad is a veritable democratic scandal. Tens of thousands of ballots have gone missing or have not been cast, and we know that if everyone had been allowed to vote freely the result would have been different and even more favourable to the pro-independence option.
I believe these are the minimum facts needed to help contextualize what has taken place in Catalonia, which has been aptly covered in the international press and grossly manipulated in the Spanish press. Catalonia has voted for independence.
Today, any reasonably well-informed citizen in the world knows three facts. First, that there is a nation called Catalonia, the capital of which is Barcelona. Second, that most Catalans have voted in favour of independence from Spain. And third, that this is a big problem for Spain and probably also for the European Union.
And herein lies the key to the immediate future: Catalonia is a problem that needs solving, the sooner the better. And if Spain does not want to solve it, Europe will have to, if it wishes to avoid a far-reaching institutional crisis. The 72 separatist MPs and the new Catalan government will immediately begin implementing a clearly-defined roadmap. The march toward independence will have a time horizon of eighteen months at the most and enjoy the legitimacy won at the polls, which has been recognized and understood as such throughout the world. But what will Spain do?
As of last night, Spain must realize it cannot simply continue to say that it is not possible to hold a vote on Catalonia’s independence from Spain. In response to the great political quagmire posed by the Catalan challenge, Mariano Rajoy intends to impose his brand of authoritarianism and a sense of legality that fails to take into account the exercise of democracy.
During this campaign, Europe has witnessed what Spanish nationalism is capable of. Statements from the office of the president of the European Commission have been manipulated. The president of the Bank of Spain has proven irresponsible enough to announce there would be a ‘corralito’ in Catalonia. The threat of military intervention has been used. Letters have been sent to every household warning pensioners they would no longer be able to draw a pension if they voted for independence. It has been said that Catalonia would be expelled from the EU, knowingly lying when stating that EU treaties contemplate the event of such an expulsion, which everyone knows is untrue.
As of Sunday, therefore, Europe and the world have a clear responsibility. Will they allow the problem to continue, given Spain’s intransigence, or will they pressure Spain into respecting democracy and the will of the people?
In a few weeks, Catalonia’s separatist forces will unite to form a government with the goal of leading Catalonia to independence. This is what citizens have demanded at the polls, this is the democratic mandate that Junts pel Sí and CUP’s parliamentary majority translates into. When this happens, Spain will not react like most democratic countries would. We Catalans know this, and so should the rest of Europe.
When this happens, there will be only two possible camps: those who are for democracy, for respecting the vote of citizens and seeking ways to institutionally channel it, and those who are against democracy and intend to resort to legal stratagems. This is the extent of the problem, this is the dimension of the debate. We are not speaking about an ethnic conflict or a nationalist claim. What Europe is now facing is a real democratic revolution it can neither be insensitive toward nor turn a deaf ear to.