Madrid vs Catalonia: What’s next

Catalonia’s regional parliament has started a secession process. How do you see the situation, how will Madrid react? Read few comments.

Carsten Humlebæk,  Assistant ProfessorDepartment of International Culture and Communication Studies, Copenhagen Business School

Yes, the Catalan Parliament has just voted the declaration with the 72 votes of JxS (Junts per el Sí) and CUP.

They have voted declarations of independence before (f.ex. in January 2013 including the “right to decide” = referendum), and they were always filed to the Constitutional Court and deemed anti-constitutional. But this time they have gone a bit further in premeditating that it will be impugned by the Spanish Government in saying that they will not respect any Spanish authorities mentioning explicitly the Constitutional Court.

I.e. that the will not obey what ever the Spanish judicial system might think of the declaration. They intend to proceed along the lines of the 18-month road-map towards independence, which means to begin passing laws on a parallel set of Catalan institutions (the so-called ‘laws of de-connecting’).

The Spanish Government will file the declaration to the Constitutional Court and as soon as the court accepts to open a case against the declaration, it will formally be suspended until the court rules. But this time, the Catalan politicians are likely not to obey to the suspension.

The next step from Madrid will be to survey very closely anything that the Catalan Parliament and the still outgoing regional Government does to evaluate whether they act in a disloyal manner and promptly act if against such disloyalties. A recently approved law (October, by PP-votes only) details all the punishing actions that can be activated in case of disloyalty towards the rulings of the Constitutional Court, which range from pecuniary fines to inhabilitation etc. The president of the Catalan Parliament and former Head of ANC, Carme Forcadell, is in the center of this attention. She is probably facing punishment, even if she does not actively try to prevent the contents of the declaration being realized as she has a particular responsibility to make the Parliament abide by the rule of law.

At the same time, the Spanish Government is probably hoping not to have to act against Catalan politicians before the general elections on the 20th of December so as not heat up the confrontations too much in detriment of the PP’s electoral chances.

And at the same time, the Catalan political situation is partially stalled by the fact that the CUP so far has not been willing to vote – actively or passively – Artur Mas as present of the new government. The clock is ticking – deadline early January – to find a solution and alternative names are popping up in the debate these days. Neither party – nor JxS nor CUP – is excited about the view to repeat the elections which will be the result if the deadline reached without a new government.

Joan Botella, Professor of Political Science, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The situation here looks bad, but not serious. The same day the Parliament will vote “starting a process of disconnection from Spain”, there will be a vote to elect the regional Prime Minister. The majority which will vote for the disconnection will be divided about the leader: Mr. Mas will not have the required majority. This will happen tomorrow.

A second vote will take place then on Thursday, which requires only a plurality. Once again, his partners will not vote for him and, even if they abstain, Mr. Mas will lose by a narrow margin ( 63 vs. 62).

So strong words, but nobody to drive the car. There may be other candidates and / or other votes, with a limit date: January 12. If no election has taken place by that date, the Parliament is automatically dissolved and new elections are called ( to take place early March).

But, but… at the same time, national Spanish elections are scheduled for December 20. The conservative Mr. Rajoy’s party, PP, was expected to lose a lot of ground or even losing the election…until this pro-independence movement started. This has given him a lot of momentum, eroding both the Socialist Party and the new, radical, “Podemos” (“We can”), and favouring the parties more strongly opposed to separatism: PP and “Ciudadanos” (“Citizens”, the other newcomer). Polls show that PP is going to win, and that C’s might even be the second party (although I doubt this hypothesis).

This is giving Mr. Rajoy a new and unexpected profile of Statesman, serious and wise. He is tackling the Catalan situation very parsimoniously – “proportionate reaction” is his favourite word in the last weeks – and using strictly legal and judicial tools; you will not see the army.

In other words: the separatist wave is stalled, politically divided, and weaker than it was; and is paradoxically triggering the opposite reaction, favouring at the national level the parties most opposed to any kind of negotiated solutions, reforms, or whatever. I am one of the promoters of some “third way”, but, although we are still a majority in public opinion, it is becoming simply impossible to move ahead in this direction. We seem to be aiming at a “trains crash”. Not too many reasons for optimism.

Luis MorenoResearch Professor, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Institute of Public Goods and Policies

The DUI (Declaration of Unilateral Independence) passed by a majority of deputies in Catalonia’s Parliament will be most likely contested before the Spanish Constitutional Court, which will most probably consider it unconstitutional and with no legal effect whatsoever.

The majority of Catalan deputies might insist subsequently in passing laws to ‘disconnect’ Catalonia from the rest of Spain. This would be unconstitutional and illegal and the central government could seek the suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy.

Political scenarios for the short-term future very much depend on the results in Spain (and in Catalonia) of the upcoming General Elections to be held on December 20th.

Note that the majority of deputies in Catalonia’s Parliament represented less than 50% of the popular vote in the last Catalan elections. Arguably, the situation now in Catalonia is one of a country divided in two: those secessionist wishing the separation of Catalonia from the rest of Spain, and those who want Catalonia to continue to be a constituent part of Spain.

Francisco Romero Salvado, Reader in Modern Spanish History, University of Bristol

It has not been surprising that the Catalan parliament has passes today with the votes of the two independentist groups (Junts per Si and CUP) the beginning of the process of independence. We are also expecting the central government to ask the constitutional court to annul that declaration. We are unfortunately experiencing the beginning of a potential clash between the immobilized centre and the combination of opportunists, radicals and lunatics in Catalonia.

I still believe that everything will depend on who wins the elections on 20 December.

I am hopeful that some kind of deal can be achieved and the constitution reformed. Otherwise the Catalan `dream’ will become a nightmare.

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