An unparalleled participatory process, organized by the Catalan Government through militant volunteers, mobilized 2.3 million people across Catalonia on Sunday, November 9. In an election-style press conference that same evening, Catalonia’s regional president stated: “Today, the Catalan people have looked themselves in the mirror, and they liked what they have seen.” Narcissistic or not, it was a massive, civic demonstration of political will and determination, and the emotional part of it demonstrates how much this is also a matter of feelings, pride and dignity, but also love, and hate. Standing up for what they called their national “right to decide”, countless Catalans deeply felt an extraordinary patriotic emotion. Numerous people sported proudly their Catalan flags and yellow t-shirts recycled from previous mobilizations, happily standing in long lines across the country, and some hugged each other in tears when they cast their ballots. For an act of defiance of the Spanish state, it was an amazingly calm process, led by highly engaged and disciplined people. By all standards.
But, are those plentiful Catalans capable of turning that big mobilization success into a political victory, and get to vote in a fully-fledged legal referendum for independence? Addressing the international community in an article published by the Guardian on November 12, the Catalan president wrote: “A huge majority of Catalans, whether in favour of independence or not, just wanted to express their wishes at the ballot box”. Albeit that “huge majority of Catalans” meant scarcely the 37 percent of the census, of whom 80.7 percent voted in favour of independence (i.e. 1.87 million out of the 6.22 million entitled to vote). The Catalan president believes they have “earned the right to a proper legally binding referendum”.
“Following the Catalans’ overwhelming backing for independence”, the Catalan president’s article goes, “Spain needs to listen”. If that 37% means a “huge majority”, or if that “backing for independence” (i.e. one out of three) is “overwhelming” or not, is debatable, and the reader can judge for themselves. But what is less debatable is the second part of the sentence, as it is self-evident that, with such a mobilization happening in a core part of its territory, the Spanish government “needs to listen”.
What the Catalan government has been asking for is an official Scottish-style referendum, but that is precisely what has been repeatedly rebuffed by the Spanish government. What for the Catalan president, Mr. Mas, are only “legal excuses”, for the Spanish president, Mr. Rajoy, are pillar articles of the Constitution.