The Ghost Catalan Referendum

Catalunya is proud of its reputation as an innovative region. It likes to see itself at the cutting edge of fashion, food and football – to name but three – however with the decision to hold a referendum on Survey Monkey they have taken politics to the edgy edge and beyond. Well I jest, the vote won’t actually be an online poll but it may as well be considering the lack of weight the result will carry. The pro independence parties have dug, and dug and the hole just gets bigger.

So here is where we are at the moment: the ghost catalan referendum. A vote across Catalunya will still take place on the 9th November with the same two questions appearing on the ballot paper. But the result won’t be worth the ballot papers the crosses will be marked on. On the 9th Catalans will saunter off to vote heading up and down the ramblas in their hundreds of thousands towards Government offices. Lines of voters will form and grow throughout the day no doubt in places circling buildings many times. It will make for wonderful pictures; the types of images we have come to expect as millions of Catalans actively engage and protest.

Inside there will be ballot boxes and polling booths and most of the other things you normally have in proper referendums. It’s unlikely they will have the extra ingredient that Scotland had like the establishment parties checking over the postal votes but everything else will be there; except of course any meaningful outcome. A lot of time, effort, money and resources will be used and for what I am not too sure. How can a vote with so little scrutiny and authority really validate anything?

The “new vote” isn’t even universally supported by the pro independence parties and Artur Mas is scrambling on his “what next” strategy and what a predicament he has. It’s exceptionally unlikely that a constitutional kangaroo court would ever legally allow a vote so he must be thinking why hold off? But can an elected politician really lead a region in breaking the law?

With two diabolical options like this the Generalitat is properly hamstrung and what of the average disenfranchised Catalan? A region 20% larger in population than Scotland is being denied the right to vote on self determination by the establishment and how do you really rail against the establishment? The Generalitat has played by the establishment rules and lost spectacularly. Play with politics and engage in legal wrangling with a “real and powerful adversary” and you will lose: a lesson for the present and for the future that Scotland learned last month.

Whatever Catalunya does next it has to be innovate and creative and involve and it must be led by the masses and if anywhere is set up for that it is Catalunya. We Scots can continue to support their movement for real and true democracy. The next few years for their independent movement will be as complicated as ours. So let’s keep in touch and keep learning from both our struggles.

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