Tomorrow, the region of Catalonia is going to the polls to choose not only their new Government, but more importantly, to define themselves as a nation. It is impossible not to read the outcome of the referendum as a declaration of will from the Catalans who are expected to go to vote in record-breaking numbers. The contest has been simplified, and rightly so, between those determined to go ahead with their secessionist plans, against those who want to protect the unity of Spain. All the latest polls published by the Spanish press agree on how tight it is going to be. There are 135 seats in the Catalan parliament, which means that any party or bloc of parties will need at least 68 of those seats to hold a majority big enough in order to govern. According to all the vote intention surveys none of the blocs will reach that majority leaving their fate in the hands of Catalunya en Comu-Podem, the Catalan branch of the Spanish antisystem party Podemos. They opposed both to the application of the Article 155 and any kind of declaration of independence in the region and they have already declared they will not support either separatists or the so called constitutional parties.
Ahead in the polls parties wise is Ciudadanos. A young right party created in Cataluña back in 2006 and whose candidate, Ines Arrimadas, has managed to appeal with her strong stand against the secessionist to all those Catalans who just want their region back to normal after the crisis that saw them lose their autonomy. Behind Ciudadanos are the strongly pro-independence party, The Republican Left of Catalunya (ERC) led by Oriol Junqueras, who is currently in prison facing possible charges of rebellion for his role in the Declaration of Independence. With a possible 23% of the votes the ERC is the main independent force followed by Carles Puigdemont’s Junts per Cataluña. Mr Puigdemont is campaigning from Belgium and no longer under a European arrest warrant, but nevertheless still playing the martyr in this surreal battle for independence. His party keeps promising he will be back as the prodigal son of the Independence, but with the ongoing investigation over possible crimes of sedition, rebellion, and misuse of public funds, it seems that he won’t be returning home for Christmas anytime soon.
As we have witnessed in previous elections, polls are to be taken with a pinch of salt and only by Friday we will know how the Catalans have voted for sure. The fracture in their society is extremely deep and it will take a long time to heal. Once again this campaign has been riding more on emotions than in practicalities. The pro-independence parties haven’t explained why the declaration failed and neither have they proposed a well-studied plan to rectify mistakes and guarantee to their supporters they will get it right this time around. With the excuse of not wanting to go ahead with it because they feared a disproportional response from Madrid, they are making excuses for their own incompetence and madness. Truth is they were not ready for it. The backbone for their dreamed republic was still germinating. No financial, taxation or any other institutional structure in place. Just the dream. One would have thought they will be campaigning now explaining why they failed before and what have they done to rectify their previous mistakes. However, I am afraid this is not the case. Still the same old promises that it can happen, the EU will listen, the article 155 will be lifted and so on. The same can be said about the constitutional parties. They seemed pretty chuffed with themselves just stopping in their tracks the secessionists, with not much substance to explain what their project is for a nation who was put on the verge of collapsing by nationalism. There seems to be too much appealing to the heart and too many fire starters with no clue of what to do next.