If Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez was hoping that taking a harder line on the Catalan independence crisis would give his Socialist Party a boost in the next election, a look at the polls must give him second thoughts.
Since the Supreme Court convicted nine Catalan separatist leaders of sedition against the Spanish state for organizing an unsanctioned independence referendum in 2017, support for the Socialists has fallen from 28-29 to 24-25 percent.
The conservative People’s Party is up, from around 20 to 22-23 percent in the last month. The far-right Vox, which got 10 percent in the last election, is up to 13-14 percent.
Demonstrations for Catalan independence have always have been peaceful — until Tuesday, when a sit-in outside the Spanish government delegation in Barcelona led to acts of vandalism and altercations with riot police.
While most separatists, who were protesting the long prison sentences given to their leaders by the Spanish Supreme Court, left around dinner time, some donned masks and threw bottles and firecrackers at police. Later in the evening, trash cans were set on fire and barricades erected on the Passeig de Gràcia, a luxury shopping street. It took until early Wednesday morning to clear the avenue.
The knee-jerk reaction from the Spanish right is to clamp down. Pablo Casado, the leader of the largest right-wing party in Congress, has called on Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a social democrat, to declare an emergency and take command of the Catalan regional police.
That is the worst thing he could do. Tensions are running high. The mossos (troopers) are at least seen as fellow Catalans by most protesters. Send in the National Police or the gendarmerie and the riots are bound to get worse.
Let Sánchez come to Barcelona instead, meet with members of the regional government and start listening to their demands; something he promised to do when he came to power a year ago, but still hasn’t.
As long as Spain’s mainstream right would rather do a deal with the far right than the center-left, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ Socialists are the most reasonable choice in the country’s general election on Sunday.
Sánchez’ only possible partners are the far-left Podemos and regionalists from the Basque Country, the Canary Islands, Catalonia and Valencia. Even if, as the polls predict, the Socialists expand their plurality in Congress, the next coalition government could be unwieldy.
Podemos will require concessions and its platform is full of unwise proposals, from abolishing spy agencies to nationalizing energy companies to withdrawing from international trade deals.
If the regionalists end up as kingmakers, they can be expected to leverage their position to extract more money from Madrid. The two largest parties in Catalonia insist they will only back Sánchez if he comes out in favor of a legal independence referendum. Sánchez insists he won’t.
But those complications are preferable to the alternative: a hard-right government that would need the Franco apologists in Vox for its majority and exacerbate the separatist crisis in Catalonia by once again suspending self-government in this part of Spain. Read more “Sánchez Is the Reasonable Choice in Spain’s Election”
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has proposed calling a referendum on a renegotiated statute for Catalan home rule.
In 2010, the Spanish Constitutional Court rewrote parts of Catalonia’s 2006 autonomy statute. Most of the changes were minor, except they limited Catalonia’s fiscal autonomy and took out the description of Catalonia as a “nation”.
As a result, Sánchez said in a radio interview, “Catalonia has a statute that it didn’t vote for.”
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez and Catalan president Quim Torra have met for the first time.
The fact that a simple meeting is considered a step forward says something about how poorly Sánchez’ conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, managed relations between the Spanish state and its richest — and rebellious — region.