The Cipher Brief asked Marc Gafarot, a public affairs consultant and specialist in secessionist movements who is based in Barcelona, to comment after Spain’s central government fired Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont on Friday, dissolving the parliament and government for declaring independence, and setting new elections for December. Puigdemont’s government had held an unsanctioned Oct. 1st referendum that was declared illegal under Spanish law.
TCB’s Kaitlin Lavinder started by asking what the ousted Catalan politicians will do.
They will try to stay in their posts. There may be two separate and not compatible legitimacies in Catalonia at least till elections scheduled Dec 21. They expect big mass mobilizations all over Catalonia to keep the functioning of the Catalan government with a very limited influence of the Spanish authorities.
Gafarot predicts a peaceful fight-back by the unions and political parties who objected to the declaration of independence.
I assume that now unionism will try to take on the streets of Barcelona and other cities. Up to now, it has been clearly the pro-independence side the one leading the streets of Catalonia with a huge presence….It seems that a new period has just started and now resistance -peaceful- will be new scenario.
Also a new strategy to persuade international recognition needs to be duly implemented….I believe that the pro-indy parties will, following an internal debate, take part in the elections with the goal of obtaining a majority in the new chamber as they enjoy now.
Garafot believes Madrid could have headed off this political confrontation by addressing rather than dismissing the Catalan desire for more autonomy.
Madrid has failed for decades or even centuries to acknowledge the personality of Catalonia and its national character. Should Madrid´s government [have] acted in a different manner, now probably the independents would not be a majority in Catalonia. Stubbornness and lack of pragmatism made a very wrong combination for adequately tackling the so-called Catalan question. Elections do not seem to be a solution, considering that most electoral polls show a majority for the pro independence parties.
Garafot says Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will try to run the restive region from Madrid, which will only make matters worse.
This may exacerbate even more sentiments in Catalonia, and this rule can be seen as something similar to a neo-colonial situation. That is why they are launching elections at the earliest possible time, otherwise, running the Catalan bureaucracy and administration may be difficult and highly damaging by Madrid’s interests.
The pro-indy government of Barcelona needs to be very close of their citizens regardless of Madrid’s interferences. Failing to attain this may result in a lack of prestige and legitimacy within their own ranks. The panorama is highly unpredictable.
Of the Trump administration’s backing of Spanish unity, Garafot said Washington might find itself in an awkward role of backing authoritarian actions by the Spanish government, if the region votes again for pro-independence parties in the December poll.
A question arises: should the Catalan independents win the December elections, [do] people’s choices do not matter in democratic societies? Is violence the only feasible option to revert the unity of Spain?
The game is not over yet…but Spain is in a dangerous situation and has to come up with new and credible offers for the Catalans. This is something that it is hard to envisage.
The European Union is publicly supporting the Madrid crackdown, but privately some officials are urging Rajoy and other “unionists” who want to keep the country together, to find accommodation with Catalan separatists.
The EU and EU member states are also supporting Spain -publicly. However, at private level, it seems that more and more opinions are counselling Rajoy to open a negotiation with the Catalans. This is something that Rajoy may try to do following the elections of December. Now it would be an example of weakness in a country like Spain, where pride still matters more than pragmatism. Nothing is decided yet, but the worst case scenario, for unionism may be approaching if the Catalans are able to resist the coming months and win the elections.
Kaitlin Lavinder is a reporter at The Cipher Brief. Follow her on Twitter @KaitLavinder.