Politics Member States

Catalonia election: The obsession with independence

23 November 2012
La Vanguardia Barcelona

Independence demonstration on Catalonia's official day, Barcelona, 11 September 2012.
Independence demonstration on Catalonia's official day, Barcelona, 11 September 2012.

The issue of self-determination is the main issue in Catalonia's November 25 regional election, and has emerged as the single theme of the campaign. It has been foisted on the electorate in order to avoid more pressing concerns such as unemployment, education and health, argues a columnist.

One advantage of this election campaign is that there is just one issue that concerns, interests or upsets the Catalans. We talk about it in the pubs, at home, in the office, and on the street. To tune into a radio station and discover that they are not talking about it is rather a shock. Am I really living in my own country?

The sovereignty theme is all-pervasive, all-encompassing, all-enveloping. It's in the TV debates, constantly and persuasively. Invading all fields, it’s infiltrating in all directions. I’ve been visited by American, British, German, Italian and Swedish journalists who want to hear more on it.

It seems as if the topic that will be cleared up on Sunday at the polls is on the agenda of the White House, the Kremlin and the People's Palace in Beijing. Paris, London and Berlin are awaiting the outcome. I recall the remark James Joyce made to an Irish compatriot: “Since we can not change the country, could we change the subject?” No. That subject is all there is.

Unemployment is the biggest worry

What’s being brought up everywhere is that, on Sunday, we will be able to vote for different options for declaring that a consultation will be held on the “right to decide” – a euphemism for independence that some see coming very soon, that others promise for this legislative term, and that a third group sees hovering in the distance. Not everyone on the independence front is sharing tactics, strategies and timetables. On Sunday night, though, they will come together for a single goal and a single issue.

The question is also viewed differently by the front that opposes sovereignty for Catalonia. The People’s Party (in government in Madrid) are beating the political and media drums with apocalyptic airs. The Ciutadans [centre-left, anti-nationalist] are talking less about the issue, instead touching on subjects that are more uncomfortable for the government. The Socialists want to occupy the middle ground, but there have been so many desertions from its ranks that it will be very difficult for them to avoid the precipice.

The issue of immigrants has not come up in the debate. The sovereignty issue is not taken to the local markets, where politicians on the stump usually head. Few politicians are stopping by the fish stalls or the fruit and vegetable shops, for fear of being taken to task for ignoring other concerns in their focus on sovereignty. Unemployment is the biggest worry. The care of the most vulnerable, education, health, security, corruption and humanism have vanished from the debates. All this will be resolved when independence is no longer a dream. We will live in a land that will flow with milk and honey. Independence will make us all happy.

Translated from the Spanish by Anton Baer

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