And I’ve just heard that Madrid has ordered the Constitutional Tribunal to abolish the Catalan government altogether.
We could talk about the ins and outs of the legal status of the Catalan referendum - which will or will not have taken place at the start of this month – until we’re blue in the face or the cows come home (whichever happens first) but the fact remains that the wish of 80% of Catalans to vote in a referendum on independence was ignored then scorned then rebuffed then made illegal by Madrid, with the result that by the time you have read this, the face of Spain as we knew it will have changed for good. The Catalan president has informed the world, via the Financial Times, that his executive disposes of 6000 ballot boxes, and a majority in the Catalan parliament have voted the referendum into law (the unionist parties chose to walk out of the chamber rather than vote no). For his part, the Spanish president has stated in no uncertain terms that the referendum ’will not take place’ and as a first taste of what lies behind those words, members of the Civil Guard (the Spanish paramilitary police) recently rushed to a printing press near Tarragona and – as they didn’t have a warrant to enter the building – began searching the vehicles of workers coming off their shifts (they didn’t find anything). They have now extended their siege to two other printing presses and a small local paper. Ah, and Spanish intelligence operatives are attempting to locate the above-mentioned 6000 ballot boxes. And the state’s official bulletin has published the names of around a thousand people who will be taken to court if they do anything to assist the referendum, ranging from the CEOs of Catalonia’s public TV and radio stations, to the head of the Catalan police. And I’ve just heard that Madrid has ordered the Constitutional Tribunal to abolish the Catalan government altogether. All told, this is an extraordinary case of a democratic state blindsiding a sizeable chunk of its own citizens because they wish to vote on their political future, and blaming it on a ’handful of authoritarian politicians in Catalonia’, perhaps forgetting that this ’handful’ was given an absolute majority by millions of voters. In other words, whatever Madrid does – if it confiscates the ballot boxes, if it shuts down the Catalan government, if it sends in the army, or if it backs down and allows the referendum to take place - that strange, contradictory ’Transition’ which took place after Franco’s death, will now be over and done with. Either it will harden into something not a million miles from the regime that came before it (in Catalonia, at least) or it will be transformed into an unflawed democracy voted in by those many Spaniards who would like to live under a flexible and transparent form of government, even if that means allowing the Catalans to decide for themselves. Oh, and Brussels , it would be so nice if you could get around to letting us know where you stand on all this. Really.