Where Does the Catalonian Independence Movement Go From Here?
By admin October 5, 2017

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The world watched in horror this past weekend as riot police confronted protestors and stormed voting centers to inhibit Catalonia’s vote for independence, which is located in the northeast part of the country and holds Barcelona as its capital. The scenes caused pro-democracy protests throughout Catalan on Tuesday, leading to a rare televised response by the Spanish King, Felipe VI. After the king condemned the separatist movement as disloyal, Catalonian lawmakers decided to move forward with a declaration of independence, which is set for Monday.

The history of the Catalonia separatist movement goes back centuries, as the region fought against Spanish centralization in the 17th century and was conquered by Philip V on September 11th, 1714 after the War of Spanish Succession, a day still celebrated annually as the national day of Catalonia. During the Spanish Civil War, Catalonians put up a bloody defense against Francisco Franco’s forces, but the city fell in 1939. During his authoritarian reign, Franco outlawed Catalonian nationalism including its language. Catalonia went on to accept the Spanish constitution in 1978, which gave regional governments considerable power to prevent another authoritarian government. However, the contemporary separatist movement gained significant traction during the last global recession in 2008 where Catalonians saw considerable wealth leave their region to support the rest of Spain. Since 2012, separatist parties have gained a majority in the regional parliament, which led to an independence referendum in 2014 that had low voter turnout and was declared unconstitutional.

After 90 percent of the 2.25 million people who voted said yes to the referendum this past weekend, there is talk of a declaration of independence occurring early next week by parliament members and the regional president, Carles Puigdemon. Therefore, it seems Spain is on track for a constitutional crisis that risks the stability of the new democracy.

If Catalonia does declare independence, it seems the Spanish government has cornered itself by taking a hardline position against the separatist movement. The government will most likely follow through on the sedition probe brought this week against the police chief and top officials in Catalan for working to start a rebellion against the state. If a successful negotiation cannot be had between Catalonian officials and the government, Spain will ultimately be forced to trigger Article 155 of their constitution, which allows the central government to assume complete authority over a regional government. Such an action would lead to massive protests, and in all likelihood, a strong, marshal law type crackdown by government forces would have to be put in place to maintain peace. After the violent nature of the protests this past weekend, it unlikely this option would not play out with significant violence and arrests.

Even if Catalan is able to gain independence, its economic future is hotly debated among economists. The Spanish government argues the regions GDP would fall by 30 percent and unemployment would increase dramatically. On the other hand, Catalan separatists argue they would enter the EU and maintain the prosperity due to a number of industries and foreign investment in the area. Either way, both the Spanish government and Catalonian leaders must fine a solution that can prevent violence and instability over the coming weeks.

Further Reading:

Can Spain’s Economy Survive Secession?

Spanish Court Open Sedition Probe of Catalonian Officials for Independence Bid

Catalan Independence Vote Caps Four Centuries of Mistrust

The Referendum of Catalonia

Catalonia to Declare Independence on Monday

Spanish Leader Condemns Catalan Leaders

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