UPDATE 11/09/17: Catalonia will hold a referendum on independence on 1 October 2017. The Spanish Constitutional Court has ruled the vote illegal, and the central government in Madrid is strongly opposed. However, the regional Catalan government argues this is a question of national self-determination, and that international law is more important than Spanish constitutional law.
So, events are coming to a head. The courts have ruled the referendum illegal, but Catalonia’s government has pledged to hold it anyway. There is apparently little appetite for an independent Catalonia among Spain’s European partners, with EU Member States arguing this is an internal matter for Spain.
In 2014, Catalonia held a non-binding referendum (or “popular consultation”) on independence, with over 80% of votes cast supporting Catalonia becoming an independent state. However, critics argue that turnout was low because many people boycotted the referendum (no official turnout figures were released). Artur Mas, then-President of Catalonia, was convicted of abuse of power and was fined and barred from public office for 2 years. Could a similar result be on the cards this time?
UPDATE 28/09/15: Catalonia is on a collision course with the central government in Spain after regional elections on 27 September delivered a majority of seats to pro-independence candidates. The nationalist coalition Junts pel Sí (‘Together for Yes’) is projected to recieved 62 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament; not enough to govern alone, but Junts pel Sí could go into coalition with the far-left pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which is set to gain 10 seats.
However, despite winning a combined majority of seats, pro-independence parties failed to capture a majority of the popular vote, with only 47.9% of Catalans voting for pro-independence candidates. This means the result would have officially fallen short of a victory for the pro-independence side in a real referendum; nevertheless, the incumbent Catalan President, Artur Mas, has declared that Catalonia will begin negotiating independence from Spain immediately, aiming for a complete break within 18 months.
PUBLISHED ON 22/09/15: In 18 months, Catalonia could be independent from Spain. On 27th September, Catalans will vote to elect a new regional government. The majority of pro-independence parties have joined together to form Junts pel Sí (United for a Yes Vote), and polls show they could be heading for a win on Sunday.
Madrid has blocked a straight referendum on independence, so the incumbent President of the Government of Catalonia, Artur Mas, has framed the regional election as an indirect vote on secession. If he wins a majority of seats (even if he doesn’t obtain a majority of the popular vote), Mas says he will declare unilateral independence and aims to complete the split from Spain within 18 months.
Opponents are predicting chaos if pro-independence forces win. The governor of the Bank of Spain has warned that an independent Catalonia would be kicked out of the eurozone. Even FC Barcelona is not above the fray; the president of La Liga, the Spanish football association, has threatened to boot Catalonia out of the Spanish leagues.
In 2012, our partner think tank Friends of Europe hosted an event with Artur Mas, President of the Government of Catalonia. In a speech that was broadcast around the world, Mas set out his argument for an independent Catalonia. You can see video from the speech below:
We had a comment sent in from Anem, who believes that pro-independence parties will dominate the election on 27th September. If that happens, how should Madrid react? And how would it affect Catalonia’s relations with the rest of Spain?
To get a response, we spoke to Carlos Rivadulla, deputy president of Businessmen of Catalonia, an association whose members are opposed to Catalan independence. What would he say to Anem?
We also had a comment sent in from Xavi, who firmly believes that Catalonians want the opportunity to vote for independence.
What happens if pro-independence parties win the vote in Catalonia? How should Madrid react? And how would it affect Catalonia’s relations with the rest of Spain? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!