The Myth of the Catalan Silent Majority Was Defeated in the Latest Catalan Elections

Over the past few years, unionist parties together with the Spanish government had been saying that the vast majority of Catalans, who support the unity of Spain, were being silenced by the Catalan ‘separatist’ government. They contended that pro-independence parties always tend to win an absolute majority in general elections because most unionists never participate in Catalan electoral contests due to the fact that they do not identify with Catalan politics.

This was the main reason why the Spanish administration called for snap elections: “To give citizens back their voice.” However, this myth, which has been spread by unionist forces across Europe for years, was debunked in the latest Catalan general elections held this past December 21st, which had the highest turnout in Catalonia’s history: 82%. 

Pro-independence parties (JxCat, ERC, and CUP) not only validated their absolute majority of seats in Parliament (70), but got more than 2 million votes: 100,000 more than in the previous elections held in 2015. As if that were not enough, the support for independence parties grew more in areas traditionally considered unionist.

Despite that the results were clear and showed that most Catalans actually support the independence of Catalonia, unionist parties won’t easily recognize them because the only “mantra” that they have been able to use to fight pro-independence parties was to suggest that “There was a silent majority that supported their cause.” 

To that end, the leader of the major Catalan unionist party Ines Arrimadas (C’s) is now advocating for the independence of Barcelona and Tarragona from Catalonia: so-called “Tabarnia.” According to her, the unionist “silent majority” only remains in Barcelona and Tarragona. That, even though Barcelona’s voters mostly voted for non-unionists parties in the latest elections. This is, therefore, a new “mantra” directed to destabilize the independence movement and bring confrontation to Catalan streets. While this unionist strategy may make some noise on an international level for a while, this will also exasperate an important number of Catalans, including unionists, who may end up supporting the independence of Catalonia.

 

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Catalan President Puigdemont

Since the stunning victory of pro-independence parties in the Catalan general elections held on December 21st, the spotlights have been directed at President Puigdemont. His campaign promises to return to Catalonia if he was re-elected, after being in exile in Brussels since last October, opened the door to a historical moment, only comparable to the return of Catalan President Tarradellas to Barcelona on October 23rd, 1977 after being in exile for nearly 38 years, which served to restore the institutions of the Catalan self-government. However, though there are numerous parallels between Tarradellas and Puigdemont, the biggest difference is that Tarradellas made an agreement with Spain prior to his return.

Due to the fact that Puigdemont is coping a national arrest warrant issued by Spain, he is facing the biggest dilemma of his life: Return to Catalonia in order to attend his investiture to become the President of Catalonia and face a possible detention on his arrival, or renounce his investiture and stay in Brussels as the Honorary President instead. This option wouldn’t be risky in the short-term, but after some time the Spanish government may re-activate a European extradition against him, which may succeed.

Puigdemont’s lawyer said, “His only option to become the factual President of Catalonia is to return and face prison.” He added that “Puigdemont should be able to take up the presidency while in prison; yet, it will ultimately depend on the Spanish state which is willing to do everything to smash him. They may find a way to impede him from assuming office.”

Puigdemont’s final decision on his return to Catalonia will be announced over the next month and a half. Until then, all types of speculations will be on the table.

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Catalonia Faces its most Important Democratic Elections

Tomorrow, Catalonia will hold crucial general elections in the form of a binding referendum on independence. Two antagonistic blocks will face off; the unionists and the independentists. The unionists who sacked all the members of the prior Catalan governmentjailed some of them, and imposed a direct rule over Catalonia, expect to win an absolute majority in order to “eradicate” the Catalan pro-independence movement. This may be accomplished by changing the educational system and exerting an absolute control over the Catalan police and public media agencies. On the other hand, the independentists, who unilaterally proclaimed the independence of Catalonia in the aftermath of the independence referendum held last October, also expect to get an absolute majority to restore the prior legitimate government and immediately implement the independence of Catalonia.

Given that the two blocks are irreconcilable, the results of these elections will have an enormous impact on people’s lives. And whatever the results may be, the tension mounted over the past few years will heighten to levels never seen before in a “democracy.”

According to the latest polls, the key to these elections will be the turnout. A turnout higher than 80% would benefit unionists parties since their voters tend to be demobilized. And a lower turnout could give independentists a clear absolute majority which would allow them to unilaterally take further actions towards the factual independence of Catalonia.

Most polls suggest that the turnout will be historical, around 85%. However, they obviate the fact that these elections will be held on a working day (Thursday) for the first time in Catalonia’s history. While some pundits believe that holding elections on a working day will encourage people to vote, others contend that there are tens of thousands of workers who aren’t living in their hometowns. And that the 4 hours work-permission to vote could be insufficient for most of them, which may lower the final turnout. All the doubts will be allayed in only one day, when the final results of the elections will be announced.

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Sixena Art Piece Removed from Museum of Lleida, Catalonia

On Monday, Spain’s militarized police looted 44 art pieces from the Museum of Lleida, where the latest chapter of a long legal dispute over the works between Aragón and Catalonia has been playing out.

The operation, which was orchestrated by the Spanish government, began in the dead of the night and ended at 2 pm. Hundreds of Spanish and Catalan police officers cordoned off numerous streets to prevent large protests in the area. Officers and art specialists from Spain loaded the 44 pieces of art onto a moving van. The Director of the Museum said that the specialists could have damaged some of the pieces due to the speed of the packing. A crowd of hundreds of peaceful protesters unsuccessfully attempted to halt the operation on numerous occasions. A few incidents were reported in nearby streets when the protesters tried to break the police barrage. The Catalan police responded by hitting all of them indiscriminately with their batons.

Last week, Spanish Culture Minister, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, ordered the pieces to be moved from Catalonia to Aragón while Spain still controls the Catalan administration. A few days later, a Spanish judge, presumably one close to Spain’s Culture Minister, ruled that the art pieces could be removed beginning this Monday. He also authorized the use of force if it was necessary.

An official from the Catalan government, Àngels Solé, said: “This is pure-plundering. They have the brute force, there are a lot of police officers, the people are afraid. According to Solé, “These works were legally bought.”

 

 

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