By Joe Montero
The fallout of the independence referendum in Catalonia is that many more people voted than expected, given the circumstances of an outright assault on the ballot by the paramilitaries that had been ordered by the government in Madrid. At least 844 were injured.
Over 90 percent of those voters cast a ballot. This is around 42 percent of the population or a little over 2.2 million people. More than 90 percent said yes to independence.
While the vote may have been skewed towards those supporting independence, there is enough evidence to suggest that most Catalans are in favour. Any survey taking a sample this size, even considering the margin for error, would conclude the same.
Suggestions that the vote is not representative do not hold water. The will of so many people cannot be denied.
Armed with its success, the Catalan regional government is saying that it will now press on to make independence a reality.
“We will respect the mandate which the citizens have given us,” regional Vice President Oriol Junqueras said.
Catalan unions are holding a general strike today, to protest state violence. Many union leaders and members support the independence cause.
Madrid has only itself to blame. Its actions worked to convince more Catalans that they were better off breaking away.
The result has sent a seismic shock through Spain. Claims about legality and the constitution do change the fact that brutal action was taken to deny a people their voice and this not isolated the Catalan independence movement but the Mariano Rajoy government and the Popular Party.
The bottom line is that millions of Spaniards are disgusted with what has been done in their name. Even many of those who were not sympathetic to Catalonia breaking away are now saying that the people there have a right to be heard.
The result has also caused am for headache for the European Union, which has so far sat on the fence and its reputation as an upholder of “democratic values,” is starting to suddenly wear a lot thinner. It wasn’t particularly strong in the first place. But now it the leaders of most of its nations are really looking like hypocrites.
There is growing nervousness about this and its potential to fuel further political instability in the region. It is possible that the European Union might now be pushed by the need of political expediency, to exert pressure on Madrid to enter dialogue with the Catalans.
The Catalan government is pressing for this and working to gain support for the European Union to mediate in talks.
For Spain, it is already clear that the independence movements, such as that of the Basques, the Galicians and natives of the Canary Islands have taken stock and been armed with a stronger case for breaking away.
Condemnation of Madrid’s methods has been worldwide, even if some of it is rather mild. The point is that the use of violence and rubber bullets on peaceful voters has been a shock and a reaction is building.
Mariano Rajoy might go on about winning, his defending Spain and that there was no referendum. Behind the pronouncements he is a dead duck. He has called an emergency meeting of the government to extricate himself from a sticky situation. What remains to be seen is whether there will enough politicians there with the backbone to make a stand and right a wrong.
Unfortunately, the leader of the Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez, announced that he would not recognise the result of the referendum either and this might throw a lifeline to Rajoy, even if it is only temporary. Exactly how this translates in the days ahead, only time will tell.
The impact of events that have unfolded does not just concern the Catalans, Spain and Europe. It raises a question about the limit and therefore inadequacy of the western parliamentary system, usually represented by two traditional parties.
Is there a need for change in the direction of giving citizens a much more authentic voice?
This is a matter for Australia as well.
Maybe this is a good reason why our politicians have remained silent about the events in Catalonia. This doesn’t mean that the rest of us should not be involved in the discussion.