November 03, 2017
Catalan separatism is energised again
The political consequences of the imprisonment of the entire dismissed Catalan cabinet - save for the five members of it that are in Brussels - will be severe. Yesterday there were spontaneous demonstrations in Catalonia, and pot-banging has returned. There are calls for a general strike next week. And the odds that there will be a single non-partisan "civic" list encompassing all separatist parties, and members of the grass-roots, have risen considerably. In the current mood, this could possibly also include members of the fence-sitting Catalan ally of Podemos, and even members of the Catalan socialists.
In an op-ed written before yesterday, Josep Ramoneda argued that the regional elections called by Mariano Rajoy for December 21 were a sort of truce in the Catalan conflict, which only judicial actions could perturb. That is now a given. But, even before the re-mobilisation of the separatist grass-roots, Ramoneda argued it would have been an illusion to expect the elections to lead to a definitive defeat of separatism even in a scenario where the unionist parties got a majority. If the separatist parties won a majority, Ramoneda hoped the conflict would be channelled politically, rather than through an endless repetition of elections and Article 155 intervention until elections return a majority acceptable to Spain's government.
Before yesterday, there were reports that Mariano Rajoy was hoping to regain the support of the Basque Nationalist Party PNV for his 2018 budget. The PP would hope to improve its result in the regional elections, potentially entering into a coalition with other unionist parties. According to the noted parliamentary correspondent Fernando Garea, the government did not count on a deal with the PNV until after the Catalan election, but a budget deal in January would be a precondition for Rajoy being able to serve a full term. Otherwise, early elections beckon. The implication must be that now early elections are on the horizon.
In connection with all this, Miguel Carrión writes on our blog Outside the Reservation that the foreign press interpretation of Carles Puigdemont's dash to Brussels as cowardly deserting his people, and of his press conference as a circus, is absolutely not reflected in the Catalan-language separatist press. His actions are seen as dignified, and there is a remarkable willingness to trust the leadership even on decisions which can seem hard to explain rationally. So, even before yesterday's jailings, he concludes that we're not seeing the beginning of the end of what one might call a Catalan Spring, but the end of the beginning.