For sure, there will be a before and an after #9N (9th of November) in Spain.
On the last Sunday, Catalonian voters backed independence of their region by near 81%. The vote was purely symbolic and had no legal value but has very important political consequences.
Indeed, this consultation is a real political victory for Artur Mas, the nationalist CiU leader and Catolonia’s head of government. Near 2 million people went to vote to express their point of view and give a kind of legitimacy to the Catalonian government vis-à-vis Madrid. Artur Mas, to lead his strategy, can now put this remarkable result forward to demand the organization of a real and legal referendum for the next years.
On its side, the Spanish government denounced a joke, considering the consultation was not democratic from the moment only supporters for independence came to vote. This argument may be relevant when it refers to the result but clearly shows the embarrassment of Mariano Rajoy, the current Spanish leader, to recognize the success of the mobilization and make some concessions to Barcelona, in order to avoid a non-return situation. Opportunist, Mas clearly enjoyed the attitude of his counterpart to explore the breach and mobilize his supporters to win the war of the opinion.
Because, it will be hard for Madrid to not take into account the result of Sunday and its political consequences. To my mind, people did not really vote for independence, they rather mobilized to demand a real and deep debate about the issue as Scotland had some weeks ago. A real debate in which they could weigh the pros and the cons of a possible independence and assess the consequences on their daily lives.
But, rejecting this possibility and the possibility of negotiating, Rajoy takes the risk to radicalize the Catalonian movement to independence. Artur Mas clearly understood that by serving the dispute between the region and the rest of Spain to get more political supports and legitimacy. Faced with Madrid’s intransigency, Mas is imposing a kind of ultimatum to Rajoy: a referendum or early elections in Catalonia to get an absolute majority and impose the secession of the region. This strategy is kind dangerous but can be very fruitful for Mas in a long-term, even if it means accessing to the independence without any real debate within the population.
That’s why I think the Madrid central government will not have another choice than opening a great institutional debate about the future of Spain to maintain Catalonia in the country and other provinces as Basque Country or Galicia. Maybe the best solution for the future of the region is the passing from a regional State to a real federal nation as the PSOE (Spanish socialist Party) and its Catalonian branch (PSC) had defended for years. It will probably be the core of the political debates during the next November 2015 legislative elections. Otherwise, the tensions between Madrid and Barcelona will increase and nobody can predict the final outcome of this conflict.