Catalan independence vote: Are we on the brink of seeing the emergence of Europe's newest nation?

Whoever leads Spain after December's general election will know it cannot simply ignore the independence movement

Alistair Dawber
Sunday 27 September 2015 20:38
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Early exit polls in Spain suggest that Catalonia’s pro-independence parties have won a majority of seats in elections that will kick-start the region’s bid to break away from Madrid
Early exit polls in Spain suggest that Catalonia’s pro-independence parties have won a majority of seats in elections that will kick-start the region’s bid to break away from Madrid

So what now? Catalans have turned out in their millions and, it seems from early results, have overwhelmingly voted for parties that want to leave Spain and create a new Catalan nation. Those parties will now claim that they have a mandate to press for independence, so are we on the brink of seeing the emergence of Europe's newest nation?

Probably not. Even though Catalans now seemingly have a parliament that solidly backs secession, will people be satisfied with a declaration of independence, or else demand a legally binding referendum. With just three months to go before a probable Spanish general election, the new Catalan parliament is almost certain to wait until it knows who will hold power in Madrid before pressing its case. And even with this vote, Spain's constitution says that separation simply is not possible. In short there are still huge legal and political hurdles to overcome.

Instead, we are likely to see a period of uneasy paralysis. The result does not give the Junts pel sí ('Together For Yes') a legal mandate to press ahead for independence, and many who voted for the pro-secession parties never expect to see an actual divorce - especially if it means leaving the EU. What is more, it may well be that the pro-secession parties win a majority of seats but fall short of 50 per cent of the vote.

On the other hand, whoever leads Spain after the general election in December will know that it cannot simply hide behind the constitution and ignore the independence movement. It is surely a failing of any constitution when the will of the people is ignored.

And what role for the far left CUP, which Junts pel sí will need to secure a majority? What price will the party extract for being a kingmaker that crowns a push towards separation?

This result is far from being the end of the issue. And as Scotland knows only too well, a definitive vote does not necessarily lead to a definitive result.

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