Spain’s Rajoy loses Catalan elections

This 22 December 2017 video from Brussels, Belgium says about itself:

’A slap in the face’ for Madrid: Puigdemont hails Catalonia election win

Catalan pro-independence parties have held their majority in snap regional elections, dealing a severe blow to the Spanish government, which had called the poll in the hope of heading off the secessionist push. Together for Catalonia – the party led by the region’s deposed president, Carles Puigdemont – took 34 seats, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) 32 and the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy four. Making his victory speech, a jubilant Puigdemont said the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, had been ‘sunk’ in Catalonia.

By Alex Lantier and Alejandro López:

Catalan nationalists win narrow majority in crisis elections

22 December 2017

Late last night, Catalan nationalist parties were set to win a narrow majority of 70 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament, in special elections the Spanish government called amid the crisis unleashed by the October 1 Catalan independence referendum.

Together for Catalonia (JxCat) had won 34 seats, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) 32, and the Candidatures of Popular Unity (CUP) 4 seats. In the anti-separatist camp, the Citizens party won 36 seats, the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) 17, and the Popular Party (PP) [the right-wingers of Rajoy‘s minority government in Spain] 3. Catalonia en Comú (CeC)—the Catalan branch of the Podemos party, which claimed to be neutral between Spanish and Catalan nationalism—won 8 seats. Voter turnout was high, at 82 percent.

This result puts paid to hopes in the Spanish ruling elite that elections would allow them to rapidly resolve the standoff between the Spanish and Catalan regional governments. Instead, the conflict between Madrid and Barcelona is set to continue and escalate, amid deep political uncertainty.

The PP government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the election as part of its repressive strategy in Catalonia, which is backed by the European Union (EU). On October 1, backed by Citizens and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), it organized a brutal crackdown on peaceful voters in the independence referendum organized by the Catalan separatist parties. It then invoked Article 155 of the Spanish constitution to suspend the Catalan government and called yesterday’s elections in the hope of obtaining a pro-PP majority.

In the event, however, Rajoy’s strategy backfired. Despite the PP’s threats and its jailing of many Catalan nationalist politicians, the Catalan nationalists retained their majority. The PP, traditionally weak in Catalonia, suffered a humiliating collapse of its vote.

Already last night, recriminations were appearing in the pro-PP press. In an article in the right-wing newspaper ABC titled “Elections for this?” columnist Curri Valenzuela declared, “Mariano Rajoy made a mistake in calling elections as quickly as possible.”

The precise outcome in the Catalan parliament remains unclear. Eight of the 70 Catalan nationalist deputies to be elected cannot physically go to the parliament. Five have fled abroad to avoid Spanish arrest warrants (deposed Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont, Clara Ponsatí, Toni Comín, Lluís Puig and Meritxell Serret); three (deposed regional vice-premier Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sanchez, and Joaquin Forn) have been jailed. This would leave the Catalan nationalists six votes short of the necessary 68-vote majority.

These individuals could give up their seats to lower-ranking JxCat or ERC members to obtain the necessary parliament majority. However, Puigdemont might also seek to return to Catalonia and demand his reinstatement, citing the victory of the Catalan nationalist forces, among which his party was the top vote getter.

The PP’s initial response was to signal that it is preparing stepped-up repression. Yesterday, Rajoy repeated his threats to again invoke Article 155 and suspend the Catalan government if it did not obey Madrid, declaring, “Obey the law, or else you already know what will happen.”

The Guardia Civil announced new accusations before the Supreme Court against more Catalan nationalists, including Marta Rovira (the leader of the ERC while Junqueras is in jail) and CUP spokeswoman Anna Gabriel. They also laid the grounds for new accusations against more Catalan nationalists, by denouncing a peaceful protest called on the Diada national day as an act of treason.

The Guardia Civil alleged that the protests promoted “a dangerous germ of a sense of rejection or even hatred of the Spanish state and the institutions supporting it. … In these citizens’ protests, there were calls for implementing a permanent strategy of deliberately planned disobedience.”

During the election campaign, PP officials dispensed with the pretense that these are independent investigations by the judicial branch of government. In fact, the PP is using it to settle accounts with its opponents, as PP Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaría told a rally in Girona: “Who has left ERC and the PDECat leaderless after decapitating both parties? Mariano Rajoy and the PP. Who put an end to the law being flouted? Mariano Rajoy and the PP. … So, who deserves the votes to continue liquidating separatism? Mariano Rajoy and the PP.”

Voters delivered a rebuke not only to the PP, however, but also to the coalition of Catalan nationalist parties. The results of the Catalan elections, while humiliating for the PP, did not signify majority support for the Catalan nationalists’ reactionary program of building an independent capitalist Catalan Republic oriented to the EU and hostile to Spain—a program which traditionally faces broad opposition among urban workers in Catalonia.

The Catalan nationalists failed to win a majority of the popular vote, or to substantially increase their vote. The Citizens party received the most votes (25.36 percent), followed by JxCat at 21.68 percent and the ERC at 21.4 percent. Together with the CUP’s 4.45 percent, this signifies that the Catalan separatist parties collectively obtained only 47.53 percent of the vote.

They obtained a majority in the regional parliament, however, as an unintended consequence of the gerrymandering of electoral districts by the Spanish fascist regime during the Transition to parliamentary democracy in the late 1970s. This gerrymandering favored rural districts over urban ones that, at that time, voted for social-democratic or Communist Party candidates. Since then, however, this has turned into an advantage for the Catalan nationalists, whose electoral support is now concentrated in rural areas.

Separatist forces only won 44 and 49.5 percent of the votes in Catalonia’s two main urban districts, Barcelona and Tarragona. However, they won 63.7 percent in Girona and 64.2 percent in Lleída.

… The traditionally anti-separatist “red belt” around Barcelona—the working-class suburbs that historically voted for the social democrats or the Communist Party in the period immediately after the Transition—voted not for the PSC or Podemos, but for the Citizens party. Citizens, a right-wing party with close ties to the PP, nevertheless ran a campaign criticizing the PP and proclaiming that it wanted a more rational and less aggressive strategy to resolve the crisis.

See also here.

Catalonia’s hopes for peace stall as further wave of arrests feared. Tensions continue to rise as Catalans elect 19 jailed, exiled or bailed politicians, and separatists claim the judiciary is acting on Madrid’s orders: here.

In the new year, supporters of independence need to build a mass movement in Catalonia and solidarity across Europe: here.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has made clear that his response to the marginal victory of the Catalan nationalist bloc (70 seats in the 135-seat parliament) is to step up his government’s anti-democratic attacks: here.

Spain admits spending £77m on extra police to quash Catalan independence movement: here.


Catalan pro-independence parties win election

This video from Brussels, Belgium says about itself:

Catalonia‘s sacked president Carles Puigdemont is expected to deliver statements in Brussels on Thursday, 21 December 2017, following the announcement of the Catalan regional election official results.

The election was called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on 27 October 2017, when the Spanish government fired the Catalan leaders and dissolved the parliament that staged a unilateral referendum on separating from Spain and voted to establish an independent republic.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Catalonia election: Puigdemont’s party claims victory as independence movement set to gain overall majority

Kim Sengupta, Barcelona

Thursday 21 December 2017 22:52 GMT

Catalonia’s independence movement claimed victory in the region’s election with parties seeking secession set to gain an overall majority in parliament – a dramatic and unexpected result which will have huge impact not just on Spain but the European Union.

The outcome, looking increasingly likely with 90 per cent of the votes counted, is a shattering blow to [Spanish right-wing Prime Minister] Mariano Rajoy who had called the election with the expectation of reaffirming Madrid’s control over Catalonia with an emphatic victory.

The Spanish Prime minister now faces, instead, the probable prospect of an ongoing confrontation with a separatist coalition once again in power in Barcelona.

The three separatist parties, Esquerra Republicana (ERC) and Junts Per Catalunya (JxCat) and CUP have the numbers required to reach 70 seats, two more than needed for a majority. The pro-unionist Ciudadanos (Cs) may end up as the single largest party, but, adding to Mr Rajoy’s travails, his Popular Party (PP) has performed very poorly.

JxCat is expected to get 34 seats: ERC 32 and the CUP 4. Ciudadanos is due to get 36 seats: the Catalan Socialist party 17; the anti-austerity Comu-Podem 8 and the People’s Party (PP) 4.

Rajoy’s PP had 11 seats in the Catalan parliament dissolved by Rajoy; in this election, they collapsed to just four seats. Or just three seats, according to the BBC, and according to daily El Pais.

Late on Thursday JxCAt, led by former president Carles Puigdemont, claimed victory and demanded the release of political prisoners. Agusti Alcoberro, vice president of Catalan National Assembly, said: “We can say that pro-independence forces have won the elections.”

The Spanish Prime Minister will now face pressure and critical scrutiny, not just for gambling on the snap election, but his heavy handed response to the Catalan government under Mr Puigdemont’s calling of an independence referendum when the Guardia Civil were sent in and clashes broke out injuring hundreds of people.

From the BBC:

“It’s sad to turn on the television and never see a black face or an Arab personality,” says Najat Driouech, who is likely to become Catalonia’s first female Muslim MP. …

She arrived in Catalonia from Morocco with her parents as a nine-year-old, in 1990. She has been a community worker for her local council in Masnou, a town outside Barcelona, for 17 years. …

Despite not being a member of any political party, she agreed to join the electoral list for the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), to take her fight against prejudice to a higher level.

Catalan demonstration in Brussels, Belgium

This video is about a big demonstration for Catalan independence in Brussels, Belgium today. 20,000 demonstrators are expected.

Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia, exiled in Belgium, will address the demonstration.

UPDATE: police counted 45,000 demonstrators; organisers more.

See also here.

Spain, Franco and Catalonia

This video says about itself:

The Spanish Government Still Loves its Fascist Dictator

24 November 2017

Ever wondered why Catalonia is seeking independence from Spain? Here’s one reason.

Belgian criticism of arresting Catalan politicians

This 20 September 2017 video is called Angry protests in Barcelona as Spain rounds up Catalan officials.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

There is growing criticism in Belgium about the arrest warrant for the deposed Catalan government president Puigdemont. The Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said to VTM News that Madrid has gone too far. “When will Europe anything at last?” He said. “Beating up peaceful people and jailing government ministers. I’m asking questions.” …

Former Belgian Prime Minister and Socialist Party leader Di Rupo calls it on Twitter shocking to put Puigdemont in a cell. According to him, Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy behaves like an “authoritarian Franco follower“, referring to Spanish ex-dictator Francisco Franco.

Carles Puigdemont bailed pending Brussels ruling. Ousted president of Catalonia and four former ministers await decision on extradition to Spain after 10-hour hearing: here.

Bitter conflicts erupted inside the European Union (EU) this weekend over Spain’s suspension of the elected government of Catalonia after the October 1 Catalan independence referendum and the flight of deposed Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont to Brussels. As Madrid escalates its repression in Catalonia after General Fernando Alejandre threatened the region with military intervention, a historic political crisis is shaking the EU to its foundations: here.

Campaigning has begun in the Catalan regional elections scheduled for December 21. The elections are a travesty of democracy, proceeding in the shadow of the repression instigated by Spain’s Popular Party (PP) government: here.

Belgian authorities interrogate Catalan refugees

This video recorded in Catalonia by British daily The Guardian says about itself:

1 October 2017

Video footage of police brutality against voters in Girona has appeared. The video shows police hitting people in the crowd with batons while voters hold up their hands. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has told reporters that ‘violence will not stop Catalans from voting‘.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Puigdemont and ministers report to Belgian police

Today, 12:48

The deposed Catalan government president Puigdemont and the four ministers who are with him in Belgium have reported themselves to the Belgian police. The Belgian authorities announced that at a press conference.

Puigemont and his ministers have declared themselves a quarter past nine this morning. In the presence of their lawyers, they were officially informed about the European arrest warrant. They are being interrogated this afternoon by a investigating judge. He must say within 24 hours what he will do with the European warrant.

That judge has several options. He may refuse to carry out the arrest warrant, or he may arrest the Catalans or free them under conditions.

Issue not yet finished

If the judge agrees with the European arrest warrant, then a council must take a decision within two weeks on the Spanish arrest warrant. After that, an appeal may take another two weeks. …

The Catalans are being prosecuted in Spain for rebellion, rabble rousing and abuse of government money. There is a prison sentence of 30 years for that.

Catalan refugees won’t be arrested, Belgian government says

This video says about itself:

Catalonia referendum: Thousands protest Spanish police violence – BBC News

3 October 2017

Thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan cities to protest against Spanish police violence.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Belgium denies that Puigdemont will be arrested this afternoon

Today, 12:48

The Brussels Public Prosecutor denies that Carles Puigdemont and four other Catalan politicians will be arrested this afternoon, as two major Spanish newspapers report. At 14.00, the parquet will hold a press conference, says a spokesperson.

El País and El Mundo write that a warrant was issued for Puigdemont and his supporters to be arrested this afternoon. They traveled to Brussels last week.