The flag of Catalonia
When some friends of ours came out to Spain during the summer, their son was in the grip of a passion for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and he brought several books with him to while away the hours in the shade of the palm tree in their garden. I got a look at some of them, and I have to say they are well written, as well as being very observant and very funny. However, I’m not laughing now, because it would seem Spain has its very own Wimpy Kid, in the person of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He keeps running to the Constitutional Court, because those nasty Catalans are upsetting him again, but he isn’t willing to actually work with them to resolve their differences.
The big problem with Greg Heffley – the eponymous Wimpy Kid – is that he has very few talents, even fewer friends, nothing is ever his fault, and he’ll never admit to being wrong. He’ll always look for the easy way out of anything, and is very reluctant to actually work at finding a solution to a problem. In fact, on most occasions he is the problem! Does that sound familiar? Can you think of anyone else who fits that description? Or is it just me that pictures the Wimpy Kid every time I see Rajoy posturing and blustering?
Another of the Wimpy Kid’s character flaws is that he never plays by the rules, preferring to take the path that suits his purposes best, and for good measure projecting his own faults onto the scapegoats he chooses to vilify. It might have escaped your notice, but this is also how Rajoy operates.
Why else would he call the pro independence advocates, and particularly Catalan President Artur Mas, ‘undemocratic?’ Because that is the basis for the appeal to the Constitutional Court against the Catalan regional referendum law and the decree signed by Mas. Maybe Senor Rajoy has had a secret irony bypass, because he doesn’t seem to think the description applies to himself and his government.
It is certainly undemocratic to appeal against a law which has been formulated in full compliance with the Statute of Autonomy of Catal0nia, and to criminalise members of government and civil servants should they press ahead with their perfectly legal non-binding referendum on 9 November, 2014. Under the powers of the Statute, which was reformed in 2005/2006 to expand the self-governing powers of the Gerenelitat de Catalunya, the regional referendum law and the decree signed by Mas are both legal and constitutional. Although the reformed statute was dismissed in 2010, the earlier 1979 statute grants the Catalan government the powers to carry out various functions of self-government exclusively in and for Catalonia, therefore the referendum is perfectly legal under the terms of the Statute.
Rajoy states that the appeal is based on the fact that the referendum is not compatible with the Spanish Constitution, since decisions that affect all Spaniards must be voted on by all Spaniards. However, the referendum is non-binding and is intended to gauge the opinions of the Catalan people as to whether they wish Catalonia to become a state as opposed to an autonomous region, and whether they wish that state to be independent from Spain.
That decision does not affect all Spaniards, since the referendum was never intended to produce a definitive, actionable ‘Yes’ or No’ answer. So there is no just cause for denying the Catalan people their right to choose – and that is what the referendum has always been about. Initially, it’s about the right to choose, rather than the right to decide. However they are being denied that basic constitutional right.
Interestingly, when the Statute of Autonomy was reformed in 2006, Rajoy’s Partido Popular (PP) condemned it as unconstitutional, so maybe it should be no surprise that they are levelling the same accusation at the law which made the referendum possible.
Sensibly, Artur Mas decided against defying the Constitutional Court and the Spanish government, and on 14 October announced that the vote would go ahead on 9 November, but that it would be a public participatory process. The polling stations will be manned by volunteers – 40,000 at the current estimate – and people will vote by turning up on the day, rather than registering. Some detractors call it an ‘opinion poll,’ and in one way it is, but it’s also a public demonstration of determination to have the Catalan voice heard.
Now, the Spanish government has lodged a new appeal against the alternative vote, asking the Constitutional Court to suspend the vote. That’s a pretty strong action against an ‘opinion poll,’ and it demonstrates another Wimpy Kid character flaw – the need for everything to be perfect, and just as he decrees it should be. Again, Rajoy exhibits this characteristic, because if the participatory process is toothless, why try to shut it down? Because Rajoy and his government have decided that the perfect solution is to ignore the wishes of the Catalan people and silence their protests. Then the Catalan question will go away, and Spain will get to keep Catalonia and its assets.
Like the Wimpy Kid, Rajoy is riding for a fall, because the Catalan question will not go away. Catalan voices will speak and be heard on 9 November, and there will be no more ignoring, since international opinion is swinging in favour of Catalonia. If the vote is as expected, it will reveal that the majority of Catalans are in favour of an independent state which will remain in Europe. If that is the case, there will be pressure on Rajoy and his government to respect that vote and work towards Catalan independence. Then Spain’s very own Wimpy Kid may be forced to grow up, man up, and take responsibility for his actions.
Image credit: Pixabay.com