Spanish Election Could Reignite Catalan Independence Crisis
Conservatives would ban independence referendums and potentially end home rule.
The outcome of Sunday’s election in Spain could usher in a new period of confrontation with the independence movement in Catalonia.
If, as the polls predict, the conservative People’s Party and far-right Vox (Voice) win a majority, the next government would be far more hostile to Catalan interests than Pedro Sánchez’, a coalition of the Socialists and far left.
The last major protests were in 2019, when nine of Catalonia’s leading separatists, including the region’s former vice president, were convicted of sedition for organizing a referendum on independence. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Barcelona and smaller Catalan cities. At night, trashcans were burned and there were altercations with police.
Separatists gave Sánchez a chance
Independence has lost support since. 40 percent of Catalans want to break away, down from 50 percent a decade ago.
Some gave up hope when the referendum, which was boycotted by unionists, failed to bring about a Catalan republic. Session was blocked by the Spanish government. Others have been willing to give Sánchez a chance.
The Socialist Party leader became prime minister in 2018 with the support of Catalonia’s leading separatist party, the Republican Left. He pardoned the nine separatists and convened joint Catalan-Spanish cabinet meetings, something his conservative predecessor expressly refused to do.
But the talks have yielded few concrete results. Whatever momentum there was for a negotiated solution, one that would devolve more powers to Catalonia without splitting the region from Spain, was lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Right-wing parties have no intention of bringing it back.
Many Spaniards are insulted
Sánchez may have done the bare minimum from a Catalan nationalist point of view; for other Spaniards, he has gone too far. Half of Catalans want more self-government. In the rest of Spain, half of voters believe the region has too much autonomy already.
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