A majority of voters in New Caledonia chose to remain part of France instead of backing independence, election officials announced as French President Emmanuel Macron promised a full dialogue on the region’s future. The decision to keep ties with France was a watershed moment for the archipelago. The independence referendum itself was a milestone in New Caledonia’s three-decades-long decolonisation process, which was borne out of deep resentment by the region’s native Kanaks of decades of ill treatment by their European coloniser. Final results saw 56.4 per cent of voters choosing to remain part of France compared to 43.6 per cent support for independence, the high commissioner’s office said. The poll had a record-high participation rate of 80.6 per cent of registered voters — so many that some polling stations in the capital, Noumea, had to stay open about an hour longer than planned yesterday to handle the crush.
Hong Kong is taking unprecedented steps to ban a pro-independence party, in the government’s strongest action yet against the movement pushing for separation from China. Police on Tuesday delivered documents to the Hong Kong National party founder, Andy Chan Ho-tin, detailing their recommendations to the city’s secretary of security that the group halt operations. The development marks the first time since the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997 that it has sought to outlaw a political organisation. A letter addressed to Chan said security officials believed the party should be shut down “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”, according to photos of the documents posted on the group’s Facebook page.
Lawmakers in Catalonia elected a fervent separatist as the new chief of the restive region Monday, ending a leadership vacuum of more than six months and setting the scene for more confrontations with the Spanish government. Quim Torra, a former corporate lawyer who went on to lead a prominent pro-secession group, vowed to build an independent Catalan republic by working under the leadership of his fugitive predecessor, Carles Puigdemont. Puigdemont is in Germany fighting extradition to Spain, where he is wanted for allegedly using public funds and orchestrating an “insurrection” to get the wealthy northeastern region around Barcelona to break away from Spain. Torra was elected 66-65 in a second round vote after he failed to secure an absolute majority in the 135-strong Catalan Parliament over the weekend. Four lawmakers with the far-left anti-establishment CUP party abstained.
Plans by Catalan separatists to re-elect their region’s former president in absentia were blocked Wednesday by Spain’s Constitutional Court. The court agreed to consider the Spanish government’s challenge of a legal change approved by Catalonia’s separatist-dominated parliament that paved the way for Carles Puigdemont’s election while he fights extradition from Germany to Spain. By accepting the case, the court effectively ended Puigdemont’s chances of being re-elected to the post the Spanish government removed him from in October. A ruling will take months, but pro-independence parties in Catalonia need to elect a new chief by May 22 or risk the calling of a new election.
Dog sleds carried some ballots to polling stations for Greenland’s election on Tuesday, a sign of the hurdles the country faces before it gains its long-held goal of independence from Denmark. Just 56,000 people live on the huge Arctic island. It has no roads between the country’s 17 towns and only one commercial international airport. Consequently, a local fisherman took ballots by dog sled 150 kilometers across Greenland’s ice sheet to Savissivik, one of the island’s most remote towns, near the U.S. air base in Thule, the government said in a press release.
Catalonia’s new parliament on Wednesday elected a pro-secession speaker, virtually guaranteeing that the push for independence for Spain’s northeastern region will continue as its lawmakers prepare to elect a new government. The opening session of the new Catalan assembly came amid looming questions about the role that fugitive and jailed politicians will play within the chamber’s separatist majority and the future regional government. Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium in October dodging a Spanish judicial probe over a foiled secession attempt, wants to be reinstated to his old job. But he faces arrest if he returns to Spain and legal hurdles if he wants to be voted in from abroad by the regional assembly.
Last month, a year before the deadline for the referendum on independence from France, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe visited the semi-autonomous territory of New Caledonia. Philippe is anxious about potential unrest. In October, a special delegation of New Caledonians expressed their concerns to the UN decolonisation committee in New York. According to them, the Noumea Accord (the territory’s roadmap leading to the 2018 referendum) is not being applied correctly. How this situation unfolds will be of significant interest to the region.
Spain’s King Felipe VI has urged Catalan leaders to respect their region’s diversity and avoid another confrontation over independence in a Christmas speech. Felipe’s remarks on Sunday came three days after separatist parties in Catalonia, led by ousted president Carles Puigdemont, won an absolute majority of seats in a parliamentary vote. The wealthy north-eastern region’s newly elected parliament must “face the problems that affect all Catalans, with respect to plurality and bearing in mind their responsibility to the common good”, the monarch said. “The road cannot lead again to confrontation and exclusion, which as we already know generate nothing but discord, uncertainty and discouragement.” Spain’s central government called the election after sacking Puigdemont’s cabinet, dissolving the Catalan parliament and stripping the region of its treasured autonomy following an independence declaration on 27 October.
Catalonia’s separatists look set to regain power in the wealthy Spanish region after local elections on Thursday, deepening the nation’s political crisis in a sharp rebuke to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and European Union leaders who backed him. With nearly all votes counted, separatist parties won a slim majority in Catalan parliament, a result that promises to prolong political tensions which have damaged Spain’s economy and prompted a business exodus from the region. Rajoy, who called the elections after sacking the previous secessionist government, had hoped Catalonia’s “silent majority” would deal separatism a decisive blow in what was a de facto independence referendum, but his hard line backfired.
Catalonia’s pro-independence parties won a major victory Thursday: Together, they secured a five-seat majority over all other parties in the Catalan Parliament. Separatists were triumphant about their victory. But here’s the problem: The separatist victory is a manufactured product of Catalonia’s electoral system, in which voters cast their ballots for a single party list and seats are awarded to parties proportionally using the d’Hondt formula within each of Catalonia’s four provinces. As I’ve explained before, this system is stacked in favor of the separatists — which is how the three pro-independence parties won a parliamentary majority while receiving just 47.7 percent of the vote. Three factors skewed the results. First, Catalonia gives the three more rural provinces, where separatist parties do well, 15 more of the 135 total deputies than they merit based on population. Conversely, Barcelona, the most unionist province, is underrepresented. This is known as “malapportionment.” Had Catalonia allotted seats fairly among the provinces, pro-independence parties would have fallen one seat short of a majority.
Catalans flocked to the polls on Thursday for an election that could strip pro-independence parties of absolute control of the region’s parliament, though prospects of it ending the country’s worst political crisis in decades appear slim. Final surveys published last Friday showed separatists and unionists running neck-and-neck, though the same data suggests the pro-independence camp may still be able to form a minority government. That would keep national politics mired in turmoil and raise concerns in European capitals and financial markets. However, the secessionist campaign has lost some momentum since it unilaterally declared independence in October to trigger Thursday’s vote, and one of its leaders took a conciliatory tone towards Madrid in comments published this week.
The cops smiled a lot at first. The six plainclothes officers from Spain’s civil guard arrived in the morning at the Barcelona offices of Fundació PuntCat, the Internet registry that manages the .cat extension, popular in Spain’s Catalonia region. Employees were politely told to unlock their computers and step away. A search warrant would arrive soon. The mood darkened when a squad of riot police turned up, and executives learned that the police that morning had gone to the home of Josep “Pep” Masoliver, the group’s chief technology officer, and arrested him on charges that included perversion of justice. This was September 20, fewer than two weeks before voters in Catalonia were scheduled to decide whether the region should declare independence from Spain. Responding to the country’s worst political crisis in a generation, the Spanish government declared Catalonia’s referendum on self-determination illegal. Many elsewhere in Spain considered the vote treason.
After Catalonia declared independence two months ago, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain took extraordinary control of the region and called 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 easily complicate the task of governing the first of Spain’s 19 regions to have its autonomy stripped, placing the country in uncharted political terrain. While Catalonia’s volatile politics have made predictions treacherous, polls indicate a potentially fractured result that may prolong the deadlock over the prosperous northeastern region’s status, even if it denies the separatists a victory.
Catalonia votes on Thursday for a new administration in an election many hope will resolve Spain’s worst crisis in decades after the region declared independence leading Madrid to sack local leaders. Polls suggest neither the pro-independence nor the pro-unity camp will win a majority. The likely outcome is a hung parliament and many weeks of wrangling to form a new regional government. In the separatist heartland of rural Catalonia, fireman Josep Sales says he hopes the results will endorse the result of an Oct. 1 illegal referendum on independence from Spain and lead to the creation of a republic. “If we get a majority, something will have to be done. And if the politicians don’t do it, the people will unite,” he said, speaking from the town fire station where many of the red fire engines bear the slogan ‘Hello Democracy’.
When Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy forced an election in the rebel region of Catalonia, the aim was to halt the political chaos after a declaration of independence by separatists that reverberated across Europe. Instead, more upheaval looks set to emerge. It’s going to be tough to discern any real winner from the vote on Thursday following a campaign riddled with mutual suspicion and infighting. The final polls before a blackout period began on Dec. 16 showed the three parties pushing to break away from Spain may win the slimmest of majorities in the 135-seat parliament in Barcelona. The likelihood of securing more than 50 percent of the vote is more remote, though, as is an agreement on who might actually form a government.
Nationalists seeking greater autonomy for France’s Corsica on Monday ruled out an imminent independence bid but demanded greater freedoms for the island after winning the first round of regional elections. The governing Pe a Corsica (For Corsica) alliance, which groups the pro-autonomy Femu a Corsica (Let’s Make Corsica) and pro-independence Corsica Libera (Free Corsica), won 45.36 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election to the regional assembly. Local rightwing party La Voie de l’Avenir (Future Path) came second with 14.97 percent, ahead of France’s main opposition conservative Republicans in third with 12.77 percent.
A Spanish judge on Monday ordered the release on bail of six former government officials in Catalonia, but ruled that the former Catalan vice president and three other separatist leaders must remain in jail while prosecutors investigate them for their independence drive. If the six ex-officials, who had been cabinet members under former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, post the €100,000 ($118,950) bail ordered by the judge, they will be able to campaign in events ahead of the regional parliamentary elections that are scheduled for Dec. 21. The officials were jailed on Nov. 2 pending an investigation by state prosecutors on charges of sedition, rebellion and misappropriation of public funds for their sustained bid to split with Spain.
Lacking the resources necessary to be able to achieve their objective of breaking away from Spain, pro-independence forces in Catalonia put their messages and fake news at the service of a pro-Russian meddling machine, which amplified them via thousands of profiles on the social networks with links to the Kremlin and Venezuelan chavismo, with the link of activists such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. According to a number of studies about the social conversation on the internet, this conscious strategy convinced international public opinion, given that it received no kind of resistance on the part of the institutions of the Spanish state. Neither the government, nor the political parties nor public media outlets responded in an organized manner to the attack against them on social networks. One part of the evidence: according to an analysis carried out by George Washington University of the social conversation that took place in the days prior and subsequent to the referendum of October 1, two narratives were created. Some 78.2% of messages defended the independence of Catalonia and portrayed the Spanish state as repressive for encouraging police brutality. Meanwhile, 19.2% defended the legitimacy of the Spanish state to be able to stop the referendum from going ahead given that it was unconstitutional.
Spain: Will Catalonia’s separatists win in December? The voting system is stacked in their favor. | The Washington Post
Catalonia’s Oct. 27 unilateral declaration of independence from Spain has gained the region a lot of attention — perhaps more so than at any time since the Spanish Civil War. How did Catalonia end up declaring independence? Like the U.S. electoral college, Catalonia’s electoral system can turn a popular vote loser into a winner. In fact, the strong biases built into the Catalan electoral system elevated the crisis by inflating the secessionists’ parliamentary majority. And these same rules may perpetuate the crisis. After the declaration of independence, Spain’s central government used its powers under Article 155 of the constitution to take control of the regional government. Madrid called for fresh regional elections on Dec. 21. But Catalonia’s separatists may win a parliamentary majority again, even if they lose at the polls. The Catalan parliament is elected via proportional representation, which is commonly used around the world. Why did this “proportional” system lead to a surprise advantage for separatists? It’s all in the fine print.
The deposed leaders of Catalonia’s separatist government have begun arriving at court in Madrid to face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over their roles in last week’s declaration of independence. Notable by his likely absence, however, is the dismissed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, who is in Brussels and refusing to come, according to his lawyer. “He will not go to Madrid and I have suggested that he be questioned here in Belgium,” Paul Bekaert told Spain’s TV3 television on Wednesday. The hearing at the national court in Madrid, which deals with major criminal cases, began at 9am and will continue on Friday.
In recent weeks, the dispute over Catalonia’s quest for independence from Spain has captivated the attention of many parts of the world. There is concern about further outbreaks of violence if the government in Madrid and the Catalonian independence movement cannot resolve their differences. This has led commentators to call for the European Union to step in and mediate. But such hopes are not well founded. The EU has neither the tools nor the will to tackle the separatist crisis in Spain. Here’s why. First, the conflict over Catalonia’s status comes at a less than ideal time for the EU. Officials in Brussels are consumed with thorny negotiations over the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the continuing flow of migrants to Europe, and challenges to the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, to name just a few issues. There is crisis fatigue in the EU and limited enthusiasm for trying to put out another fire.
Spain: How Catalonia Pulled Off Independence Vote Using “Pizza” Code Words and Secret Schemes | The Intercept
I arrived at the polling station on the night before Catalonia was set to vote in a contested referendum on the region’s independence from Spain. A Spanish court had declared the referendum illegal, and Madrid had sent thousands of riot police to Catalonia to shut down the vote. By midnight, workers at the polling station closed the building’s corrugated metal gate and sealed us in until morning, or until the police arrived. Inside, we waited for whichever came first. The vote was organized in secret. The organizers spoke and texted in code: In this polling station — a community center in Barcelona, called Foment Martinenc — and others in the area, ballot boxes were called pizzas and the ballots, napkins. The government representative who officially opened the voting center was called “la pizzera” — the pizza maker. The organizers who drove from polling station to polling station, to make sure each center had enough pizza and napkins, were called Telepizzas, after a cheap pizza delivery chain. Central Barcelona was divided among five Telepizzas.
Spain’s prime minister on Wednesday asked the head of the secession-minded Catalonia region the question that no one can seem to answer: Did he declare independence or not? The query reflected more than just confusion. Clarity on Catalonia’s position is critical for Spain to map out its next move — including possible harsh measures against Catalonia if it proclaims itself a sovereign nation. The uncertainty comes after the region’s president, Carles Puigdemont, told the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday that Catalonia had the right to be an independent country, citing a disputed referendum last week that showed strong support for secession from Spain. But instead of an outright declaration, Puigdemont said the “effect” of independence would be delayed for several weeks to facilitate further dialogue with Madrid. He then signed a document that some perceived as formalizing a break from Spain, baffling observers in Barcelona and Madrid alike.
The leader of Catalonia has stopped short of declaring independence from Spain, calling instead for international mediation in a dispute that threatens to fracture Europe’s fifth-largest economy. Carles Puigdemont, in a speech on Tuesday to the breakaway region’s parliament in Barcelona, said the people of Catalonia had won the right to independence. The current relationship between Catalonia and the Spanish government is unsustainable, Puigdemont said. But the Catalan leader asked Calatonia’s parliament to suspend the effects of the region voting “yes” for independence and called for dialogue with the Spanish government. Puigdemont said it is worth exploring international mediation between Catalonia and Spain.
Catalonia’s leader balked at making a formal declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday, calling for talks with Madrid over the region’s future in a gesture that eased fears of immediate unrest in the heart of the euro zone. In a much-anticipated speech to the Catalan parliament, ringed by thousands of protesters and hundreds of armed police, Carles Puigdemont made only a symbolic declaration, claiming a mandate to launch secession but suspending any formal steps to that end. His remarks disappointed many of his supporters who had gathered outside, waving Catalan flags in the expectation that he would move a formal independence motion to the assembly. But the speech pleased financial markets, boosting the euro on hopes that his gesture would mark a de-escalation of Spain’s worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981.
Standing in front of his apartment across from barracks occupied by Spain’s national police, Xavi Gomez recounted the dueling protests over Catalonian independence that unfolded on his street the previous night. He talked about the secessionists who protested recent police violence by laying down flowers and the nationalists who chanted, “Long live Spain.” Then, as he noticed three officers walking out of a gate and under an iron arch with the words “All for the Homeland,” he went quiet. “You see how they are looking at me?” said Mr. Gomez, 30, as one officer gave him a hard glare and walked away. Out of earshot, he said he suspected the “monsters” were the first wave of shock troops “coming to take over Catalonia.” “For this reason,” he said, “Sant Boi doesn’t want these people.”
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the Catalan government’s decision to push for independence, as Spain’s prime minister warned that he was prepared to suspend the region’s autonomy to stop it splitting from the rest of the country. Sunday’s rally – organised by Societat Civil Catalana, the region’s main pro-unity organisation – comes a week after the independence referendum that has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in four decades. The march, whose slogan is “Let’s recover our common sense”, was intended to call for a new phase of dialogue with the rest of Spain and featured such luminaries as the Nobel-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and Josep Borrell, former president of the European parliament. Societat Civil Catalana said more than 1 million people had taken part, but Barcelona police put the turnout at 350,000.
Voting rights have been under siege in the U.S. in recent years, with charges of attempted electoral interference, legislation that seeks to make access to the polls more difficult, and gerrymandering, in a case that reached the Supreme Court this week. But no citizens here or in any democracy expect that they may be attacked by the police if they try to vote. Yet that is what happened on Sunday in the Spanish region of Catalonia, where thousands of members of the Guardia Civil paramilitary force, and riot police, were deployed by the central government in Madrid to prevent the Catalans from holding an “illegal” referendum on independence from Spain. Masked and helmeted police used pepper spray and knocked people to the ground, kicking and beating some, and dragging others by their hair. Social-media sites quickly filled with images of bloodied and battered voters. Whatever the avowed legality of the action, it was not only a shocking display of official violence employed against mostly peaceful and unarmed civilians but an extraordinary expression of cognitive dissonance: since when did European governments prevent their citizens from voting?
Catalonia will move on Monday to declare independence from Spain after holding a banned referendum, pushing the European Union nation toward a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said he favored mediation to find a way out of the crisis but that Spain’s central government had rejected this. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government responded by calling on Catalonia to “return to the path of law” first before any negotiations. Mireia Boya, a Catalan lawmaker from the pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, said a declaration of independence would follow a parliamentary session on Monday to evaluate the results of the Oct. 1 vote to break away.
The images shocked Spain and reverberated around Europe. Officers with Spain’s national security forces, in full riot gear, smashing their way into polling stations, dragging women out by the hair, and firing rubber bullets indiscriminately into crowds as they turned out to vote. It was all part of a coordinated crackdown on Catalonia’s disputed independence referendum — banned by Spain’s highest court, but held in defiance of Madrid by Catalonia’s passionate separatists who felt their long-held dream of an independent state was close at hand. Despite the attempt to thwart the vote, more than 2 million Catalans made their voice heard. Now CNN has learned more details of the extraordinary covert operation that was mounted to ensure the referendum took place. A network of thousands of officials and volunteers squirreled away ballot boxes, conferred by encrypted messages and met in secret in an effort to get as many people to the polls as possible.