Catalonia Calling! #13

Political Caganers and Other Holiday Shit - 26/12/2015

As its Christmas, I thought I'd make Catalonia Calling #13 about the caganer, the traditional Catalan figure who can be found having a shit at the back of the stable as Jesus Christ was being born. There's also the Caga Tió, the traditional shitting log that shits out presents if you hit it with a stick. I suppose It shat out some very acceptable election results and all of us hope it will shit out an agreement to invest Artur Mas as President of the Generalitat at the CUP rally on Sunday December 27th.

Seriously, this is the traditional caganer, which Catalans pop somewhere at the back of the nativity scene.

And this is the Caga Tió

Anyway welcome to Catalonia Calling #13 - Political Caganers and Other Holiday Shit on this very fine Boxing Day morning.


Spanish Election Results

As you can see you can also get caganers depicting famous people - having a caganer of you is not necessarily an insult, by the way. Anyway, here are caganers of the candidates of the four main parties in the Spanish General Elections. From left to right, Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos, Pedro Sánchez of PSOE, Mariano Rajoy of Partido Popular and Pablo Iglesias of Podemos.

Bearing in mind that, Spanish Congress has 50 seats so the absolute majority is 176, nobody really won the election as none of the parties have an easy job of forming a government.

The most voted party was Partido Popular who won 123 seats. This is a massive drop in support from the last elections when they won a comfortable majority of 186 seats. The problems is that their natural ally Ciudadanos did unexpectedly badly and only won 40 seats so with 163 seats together, they still can't form a government.

As Partido Popular have been in power for the last four years and are very unpopular, they're going to find it very difficult to persuade other parties to vote in favour of Mariano Rajoy as President of Spain or even to abstain. However, as the most voted party the onus is on the PP to try and form a government first.

The other natural pact is a left wing one between PSOE, who won 90 seats, and Podemos, who won 69, making a total of 159 seats. This is still well short of the absolute majority of 176 but a left wing alliance has more chance of bringing other parties on board, such the couple of seats of Izquierda Unida and the Partido Nacionalista Vasco who won 6 seats.

This would still leave them a few seats shorts so they would require the support or abstention of either or both of the Catalan parties, Esquerra Republicana who won 9 seats, and Democràcia i Llibertat, who won 8 seats. Obviously, the Catalans would want something in return.

A Great Coalition against Catalonia

The dangers of a left wing government willing to cede to Catalan pressure has brought the possibility of a great coalition between Partido Popular and PSOE, who would form a national government willing to defend the unity of Spain from the Catalan menace. In fact, Albert Rivera offered his Ciudadanos party's support in a press conference on Wednesday. So a government of national unity could have the support of three of the four main parties and a massive majority.

However, as the traditional opposition party, this would be a terrible risk for PSOE and throughout the course of the legislature, they'd probably lose millions more voters to Podemos. It's also quite difficult to imagine what other policies they have in common with PP apart from being anti-Catalan so the coalition wouldn't be very stable.

Is a referendum feasible?

The big problem for PSOE is that one of Podemos's conditions for joining a coalition is to allow Catalonia to hold a legal referendum and I'm sure the Catalan negotiators would demand other concessions. Unfortunately, a large sector of PSOE, particularly its power base in Andalucía, is as anti-Catalan as PP or Ciudanos so any pro-Catalan measures would cause a lot of internal strife.

The idea of a referendum has reawakened the right to decide lobby here in Catalonia but we have to face up to the fact that Spain will never allow Catalonia to decide its political future. In order to hold a referendum, there would have to be changes to the Constitution, which require 66% of Congress voting in favour, which is impossible given the number of seats held by Partido Popular and Ciudadanos even if the PSOE MPs could be persuaded in favour. If it got through Congress, it would need to be ratified by Senate, where PP do have a majority, so once again 66% is impossible.

After these two impossible votes, elections would have to called so the decision can be ratified by the Spanish people, most of whom, no matter what their political affiliation, are totally against giving any concessions to Catalonia.

Junts pel Sí and the CUP Assembly

The only way forward for Catalonia is to invest a President and form a government and carry on with our project regardless. On Wednesday, the Junts pel Sí and CUP negotiators finalised the document that will be presented to the CUP Assembly in Sabadell on Sunday December 27th. Junts pel Sí made some concessions to CUP's social policy and privatisation demands, most notably putting Barcelona World on hold, and the idea of a President with reduced powers and three Vic Presidents with specific portfolios was made official. However, Artur Mas is still the chosen candidate and that's the sticking point for the CUP, especially their more left-wing tendencies like Endavant.

I have always been in favour of Artur Mas as President and bringing the future of Catalonia down to a personal issue strikes me as juvenile and ridiculous. If they can't back down on this point, they'll find plenty more problems with the Junts pel Sí programme, which will still be more or less the same no matter who the president is so changing the candidate wouldn't really make much difference in the long term.

I just hope the the 3,500 CUP delegates see sense on Sunday and vote in favour of the agreement and the investiture. Actually, there does seem to be room for optimism as, with the exception of Endavant members, obviously, quite a few important CUP members have spoken out in favour of investing Mas so fingers crossed.

If there's a Yes

Obviously, a Yes vote would be the best for everyone. It would mean that the investiture debate could take place in the Parliament of Catalonia before New Year and we could have a fully operational Generalitat government up and running in early January.

This would mean that the Parliament of Catalonia would be able to pass three crucial laws - the Law of the Constituent Process, the Law of the Catalan Teasury and the Social Security Laws - whilst the Spanish political parties are still trying to form a government. We could strike while the iron's hot and move forwards with the independence process by being able to finance ourselves and pay out benefits.

This might have two conseqquences in Madrid. Firstly, it might provoke the Great Coalition to form. PP and PSOE would immediately start taking Catalan politicians before the constitutional court and the conflict would escalate.

On the other hand, PSOE might see sense and form a left wing coalition with Podemos with the support of the Catalan parties. Now Catalonia would have a receptive interlocutor in Madrid and the next steps in the independence process, whatever they are, would be negotiated.

I'm not suggesting that Catalonia should declare independence tomorrow that we should continue steadfastly with our roadmap always willing to negotiate. If the chance of a referendum does materialise then it must be considered but we shouldn't stop what we're doing and wait to see if Madrid makes any concessions. Unless Catalonia takes action in its own right, central government will never move an inch.

If there's a No

A No would mean that there's no chance of forming a government, the Parliament of Catalonia would be dissolved and more elections would be called probably for March. This would be a dreadful shame and we would have missed a historic opportunity. We have a democratic mandate in the Parliament of Catalonia with 7 out of 15 MPs in favour of independence so we really need to take advantage now.

No one can really say what would happen in a new round of elections. Perhaps the Catalan National Assembly could whip up grassroots feeling again but I find it hard to imagine. People are very disappointed about the mess the CUP in particular have made of this. The September election was billed as "The Vote of Your Life. You can't have a vote of your life every six months so the independence parties could well lose their advantage.

It's pretty clear what kind of late Christmas present I want, isn't it? Anyway, I'll sign off now and wish you all a very Bones Festes as we say in Catalonia.

Visca el Barça! Vica Catalunya!

Look after yourselves.

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