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11:57, 20 December 2017

Catalonia Votes Again, This Time in a Gamble to Stall Its Secessionists


Catalonia Votes Again, This Time in a Gamble to Stall Its Secessionists

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BARCELONA — Soon after Catalonia declared independence two months ago, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain took extraordinary manage of the region and referred to as elections, gambling that voters would punish the separatists who had propelled the nation’s worst constitutional crisis in decades.

That election now comes Thursday, but far from solving the conflict, it could just as simply complicate the job of governing the initial of Spain’s 19 regions to have its autonomy stripped, placing the nation in uncharted political terrain.

Even though Catalonia’s volatile politics have created predictions treacherous, polls indicate a potentially fractured outcome that might prolong the deadlock over the prosperous northeastern region’s status, even if it denies the separatists a victory.

Quick of a surprisingly crushing victory by the unionists, any other outcome is unlikely to extinguish generations-old secessionist feelings that reached a boiling point this year in a region with a distinct language and culture.

“The result appears really uncertain and even once we know Thursday’s result, I anticipate a lot more uncertainty rather than clarity,” stated Kiko Llaneras, a political information analyst and journalist who published a study on Tuesday for the newspaper El País compiling various recent polls.

“There are a lot of possible outcomes that could lead to a extremely extended negotiation, lasting probably weeks if not months,” he added.

The vote will be Catalonia’s second given that October to be held in extraordinary situations that have been utilized by each sides in the dispute to raise fundamental inquiries of democratic legitimacy.

Carles Puigdemont, the ousted leader of Catalonia, has been campaigning from Belgium, exactly where he fled to stay away from prosecution.CreditEmilio Morenatti/Linked Press

The very first vote, the independence referendum on Oct. 1, was declared illegal by Spain’s courts and central government in Madrid, which sent thousands of police officers from outdoors the region to block it.

Even although there were clashes at polling stations and opponents of secession largely refrained from voting, the result was declared an overwhelming victory by Catalonia’s separatist leaders and utilized by the regional parliament as the basis for its independence declaration.

Mr. Rajoy’s answer — direct administration from Madrid below emergency measures and new elections to shake up the regional parliament — has in turn been criticized by his separatist opponents as an autocratic abuse of authority.

Among the greatest concerns is how separatist politicians who are getting prosecuted by Spanish authorities for rebellion could take their seats if they win. Some remain in prison. Other individuals are cost-free on bail but face 30-year sentences.

Carles Puidgemont, whom Mr. Rajoy dismissed as leader of the area, has been campaigning from Belgium, from exactly where he has refused to be put on trial in Spain.

Despite early issues that separatist politicians, parties and voters would boycott a vote considered illegitimate by some, the present consensus is that turnout may possibly in fact be at a record high.

The worry of being politically sidelined has prompted all sides to enter the fray, as politicians have cast the election as a make-or-break one particular for Catalonia.

The exceptional circumstances of the election have polarized both politicians and the public. The most recent polls show the main unionist and separatist parties neck-and-neck, with every side possibly falling narrowly short of a parliamentary majority.

The follow-up negotiations to form a government could prove complex. The main separatist parties, whose majority was already fragile, are no longer running on the joint ticket that brought them into workplace in 2015.

Ought to they win, they have not agreed on how to revive a coalition that has been additional strained by the turmoil of the final handful of months and their botched try to declare independence.

Such a fractured outcome could push to the fore more centrist politicians who might support bridge the gap between the feuding separatist and unionist parties at the extremes.

A single possible energy broker is Miquel Iceta, the Socialist leader in Catalonia, who is identified to enjoy dancing in the course of his celebration rallies but has shed his ebullient method to convince voters that he can be Catalonia’s kingmaker.

Mr. Iceta’s chances of winning are remote. His Socialists are expected to take only about 15 % of the votes, according to the most recent opinion polls.

But such a result could nevertheless enable Mr. Iceta to take charge of Catalonia as a compromise option, if the vote has no clear outcome.

“The independence movement has polarized almost everything, and the center ground has disappeared, either due to the fact its representatives have disappeared or have become radicalized,” Mr. Iceta stated in a recent interview.

“We’re producing an effort to reconstruct this center space for the moderates,” he stated.

That is no straightforward activity. Mr. Iceta himself opposes independence and is against a referendum, even if the terms had been set by Madrid.

A gathering in Barcelona this month in support of Catalan politicians and civil leaders who had been imprisoned in connection with the region’s declaration of independence.CreditSanti Palacios/Connected Press

He compared it to a penalty shootout in soccer — with the considerable distinction becoming that, in soccer, any team can hope for a different result in the next competitors.

With independence, “the problem is that you produce a definitive divide in a society over an problem that is as sensitive and irreversible as this,” he stated.

He argues that the answer to Catalonia’s crisis is much more autonomy within a new Spanish federal structure. But, nationally, his Socialist celebration endorsed Mr. Rajoy’s emergency takeover of Catalonia on Oct. 27.

Mr. Iceta’s suggestion that Mr. Rajoy now make essential concessions has antagonized each the central government and numerous inside his own celebration, giving him a tough needle to thread.

Not too long ago, when Mr. Iceta recommended that Catalonia ought to be forgiven portion of its debt as element of a broader political settlement, other Socialist politicians — some from poorer regions — balked.

Similarly, Mr. Iceta was criticized for proposing that separatist politicians should be pardoned rather than put on trial, if they acknowledged that a unilateral declaration of independence was illegal. Last week, he withdrew the proposal as “premature.”

Mr. Iceta has sought to distance himself from other unionist parties, like Ciudadanos, which has been leading in most opinion polls, antagonizing them as nicely.

Last weekend, he attacked Albert Rivera, the leader of Ciudadanos, as a “shoddy democrat” for his uncompromising stance.

Miquel Iceta, left, the Socialist leader in Catalonia, campaigning in Barcelona. Though his probabilities of winning are remote, he could emerge as a compromise choice.CreditJosep Lago/Agence France-Presse — Getty Photos

His relations have been no much better at the other extreme with Podemos, the only major national celebration that advocates enabling Catalans to hold an independence referendum.

The party’s stance has infuriated Mr. Rajoy and other mainstream politicians in Madrid, who preserve that such a referendum would be illegal.

Even although polls suggest that the Catalan branch of Podemos will struggle to attain ten % assistance on Thursday, the party has created some of its biggest advances in Catalonia, and it as well could play a pivotal role in post-election haggling.

Politicians from Podemos say that Mr. Iceta is generating empty promises whilst opening the door for Mr. Rajoy to extend his takeover of Catalonia.

“It’s hard to realize why somebody like Miquel Iceta on the one particular hand defends dialogue and on the other hand gives in to the parties that just want to re-centralize Spain,” mentioned Gerardo Pisarello, an official from Barcelona’s city hall, which the Catalan branch of Podemos controls.

Nevertheless, not everybody is writing off the possibility that Mr. Iceta, or an additional politician, could uncover frequent ground in Catalonia, even if Thursday’s election proves divisive.

Mr. Iceta “is probably the only one who can in fact go over and engage with both sides, without having getting labeled completely either white or black,” said Jordi Alberich, the director basic of the Cercle d’Economia, a Catalan organization association.

“Since it appears so tough for 1 side to win over the other on Thursday,” he added, “Catalonia is in desperate need to have of a lot more moderate politicians.”

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Published at Wed, 20 Dec 2017 09:29:08 +0000


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