Catalonia Referendum, Independence: Unfinished Business?

image via flickr

Representative democracy has rendered the idea of direct democracy as too good to be true. Still, there are a few remnants of participatory democracy in the present form of representative democracy and referendums are one of them. Except for the elections, referendums are one of the most critical junctures to gauge the will of the majority. Brexit is the most recent global example that throws light not only on the national impact of the referendum but also its far-reaching impacts at the continental level.

But here, it is not the British politics that is the center of the focus of this article, but the Spanish region of Catalonia that declared independence from it in October 2017, following the Referendum earlier the same month.

Even before 2017, the autonomous region of Spain, whose political, economic and cultural hub is Barcelona, held a non-binding referendum in November 2014. This came roughly two months after the Scottish referendum of independence. In September 2014, Scotland was allowed to decide through the referendum whether it wanted to stay with the UK or to leave the 307-year-old Union. However, the simple majority of roughly 55 % preferred to stay with the Union, thus avoiding the disintegration of the UK. But the referendum of Catalonia a few months later, following the Scottish referendum brought about completely different trends, with 80 % supporting the YES vote, which meant they wanted to break away.

However, that result was not binding and perhaps was meant by the separatist leaders to serve as the opinion polls. But when in the 2015 elections, the separatists won a regional majority, they took as an opportunity by putting forth an official referendum on the question of independence from the country, which the majority of the region believes takes more from its rich resources than it gives back.

It is highly likely that the both referendums of Catalonia in 2014 and 2017 were inspired from the British case that yielded to incessant Scottish demands for holding a referendum. But here, Catalonia case deviates from that of Scotland in the procedural matters. For the Scottish referendum had a de jure status, with the approval of the UK parliament. But the same was not the case when Catalonia conducted its referendum as it had no backing of the Spanish national legislature.

Thus, the problem culminated in October 2017 following the referendum, conducted and organized by the regional government of Catalonia of which Carles Puigdemont was in charge. In response to this referendum, which the national legislature blamed as a treacherous act on the part of the regional leaders, Article 155 was threatened by the national government to enforce. Before the government could put into effect the Article 155 on October 27, the regional parliament of Catalonia held a vote and declared independence. However, the Spanish government’s imposition of Article 155 coincided with the removal of the regional leadership and fresh elections.

In the end, how the two referendums, both on the questions of independence, render themselves for comparative analyses. Both on the same question, with contrasting results, but interestingly ending up with the status quo. The most discernible aspect with which the two referendums deviate, is the legitimacy in one case while not in the other. For in the absence of constitutional remedy in the Spanish Constitution, which does not allow the breakup of any region, the regional leaders had fewer choices than their Scottish counterparts. But even after all this mess, independence of Catalonia is very much on the cards.



About Staff Writer

My focus is on politics, history, religion, and philosophy of life. I present news analysis and opinion on current affairs and occasionally produce satire articles

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