Spain: Catalonia isn’t leaving yet

The call for Catalonia’s secession didn’t quite work out as planned.

The call for Catalonia’s secession didn’t quite work out as planned, said Abel Veiga Copo in Cinco Días (Madrid). Yes, almost two thirds of the seats in Catalonian regional elections last weekend went to parties that back holding a referendum on sovereignty. But voters really smacked the region’s president, Artur Mas, who had called the early elections. Mas’s Convergence and Union party, CiU—which supports increased autonomy for Catalonia—is still the biggest party in the regional legislature, but it lost 12 seats. The separatist Catalan Republican Left, known as ERC, picked up most of those, more than doubling its showing to 21 seats, from 10. The upshot? “Catalonia’s nationalist majority has chosen the right to decide, which does not necessarily mean opting for independence.”

Mas could hardly be more humiliated, said Enric Hernández in El Periódico de Catalunya (Barcelona). Catalans are discontented. Our region is one of the richest in Spain and contributes far more to the national coffers than it gets in services. But after hundreds of thousands of Catalans marched for independence on Catalonia’s National Day in September, Mas “was too quick to count the protesters as if they were all potential voters for his CiU.” He called early elections and tried to “place himself at the head of the sovereignist claim” in the hope that voters would rally behind him and forget that he imposed harsh budget cuts on them. Mas had never been a supporter of outright independence, but suddenly he took on the “messianic role of the great helmsman who would lead Catalonia to the promised land of our own country.” Even his campaign posters, showing him with arms outstretched, evoked Moses. “He was wrong in everything.”

How can he justify staying in office? said Jorge de Esteban in El Mundo (Madrid). I was sure he would resign. Mas put Spain through “a huge trauma,” threatening to amputate a rich region at a time “when Europe already looks at us with suspicion and doubts our solvency”—and for what? This election, his choice, was in effect a referendum on him, and the people rejected him. It’s his party’s worst result since 1980, said Lluís Bassets in El País (Madrid). Mas refused to give interviews the night of the vote—his people told us he couldn’t take questions because he was “thinking.” As well he should. How can he expect to govern now?

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Although secessionists have the majority in Catalonia, “the real winner was Spain,” said Enric Juliana in La Vanguardia (Barcelona). Catalonian society may yearn for a new order, but it is not united. Now the various factions, none of which has a majority, will have to compromise, and that will lead to charges of betrayal. “Catalonia, trapped by the sentimental rhetoric of independence, will become a wasps’ nest.”

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