Catalonia, the north-eastern region in Spain, held a regional election on Sunday. Its legal purpose was to elect a regional assembly that should elect a new regional government. But the outgoing president and his political mates decided this would not be the real purpose of the vote. It would actually be a vote on the region’s independence from Spain.
To achieve that goal, he decided not to run on the usual party list but, rather, set up a coalition between his party, Convergencia — a center-right party that has held power for 27 out of the last 35 years of regional government — and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), a diehard left-wing pro-independence party. The coalition was named Junts pel Si — “Together for Yes” (to independence). And they announced that the election wouldn’t just be a regional election, but rather a plebiscite — an illegal one, by every measure — on independence.
In the outgoing parliament, the sum of both parties added up to 71 seats, the figure for an overall majority being 68. For this election they brought into their coalition various groups of citizens who favor a breakaway from Spain. So the coalition looked set to attain an outstanding majority in favor of that goal. The result was not such. They got 62 seats. Nine seats less than they had before they set up the coalition for independence. And they have the chutzpah to call that a huge success.
It is true that if they add to their mix the party that came in fifth, Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP), an extreme left-wing party that got 10 seats, they will have an outright majority in favor of independence, even though the three parties involved now have fewer seats than they had in the outgoing assembly. But has anyone ever heard of a plebiscite whose result is decided not on an enumeration of people’s votes, but on a count of members of parliament?
The pro-independence parties don’t want the actual votes counted toward the purpose of a unilateral breakaway, and that’s understandable. They only got 47.32 percent of the vote, against the 52.01 percent that went to parties that had clearly stated their opposition to independence.
It can be said without doubt that if those who called the election want to claim it was a plebiscite, they have a clear answer: Catalonia voted “no.” Furthermore, out of the people who had the right to vote — the total electorate, in other words — only 30 percent voted for the parties who were calling for independence from Spain.
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