Rajoy insists that the majority of Catalans do not want a self-determination vote
Despite all opinion polls indicating the contrary, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stated that "the majority" within Catalonia do not support the demands to hold a self-determination vote and therefore he does not have "any dispute" with Catalan society. According to all the opinion polls, between 75% and 80% of Catalans support the organisation of a self-determination vote, regardless of whether they would vote for independence or not. "I am willing to talk about everything, but not about breaking national sovereignty and unity", stated Rajoy on Wednesday. The PM insisted that he wants to talk about the things that really concern "all the Catalans", which are the economic recovery and the funding of the Catalan Government, according to him. On Tuesday, he recognised that Catalonia's self-determination process was "a deep political problem".
Barcelona (ACN).- Despite all opinion polls indicating the contrary, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that "the majority" within Catalonia do not support the demands to hold a self-determination vote and therefore he does not have "any dispute" with Catalan society. According to all the opinion polls on the matter published in the last two years, between 75% and 80% of Catalans support the organisation of a self-determination vote, regardless of whether they would vote for independence or not. On top of this, despite the massive pro-independence demonstrations which have been organised by grassroots organisations, which are mostly pushing the self-determination agenda forward, Rajoy said that self-determination demands are exclusively fuelled by political parties, while Catalan people have "other concerns". "I am willing to talk about everything, but not about breaking national sovereignty and unity", declared Rajoy on Wednesday. The PM insisted that he wants to talk about the things that really concern "all the Catalans", which are the economic recovery and the funding of the Catalan Government, according to him. However, on Tuesday, in a radio interview, he recognised that Catalonia's self-determination process was "a deep political problem". On Wednesday morning, before the Spanish Parliament, he said he was "willing to talk" but not about this issue. And on Wednesday afternoon, in a meeting at his residence La Moncloa, Rajoy was asking the Presidents of Spain's largest companies - such as Banco Santander, Repsol, La Caixa, BBVA, ACS and Mango – to help him to show "the plurality" of Catalan society, since it has many economic demands beyond self-determination. In this vein, the Spanish PM emphasised the risks of political instability for the economic recovery.
In the last two days, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been particularly vocal regarding Catalonia, although his speech has not changed a jot from what he has been repeating over the past few months. Coinciding with the start of the campaign for the next European elections, Rajoy was talking about Catalonia in almost every public appearance on Tuesday and Wednesday. His main argument remains the same: he will not accept talking or negotiating about the organisation of a self-determination vote in Catalonia, despite the fact that it is the main demand of Catalan society and the core of the problem.
However, according to him, this is not true, despite absolutely all the opinion polls that have asked the question indicating the contrary. According to Rajoy, "the majority" of Catalan society do not support the organisation of a self-determination vote, as he said on Wednesday before the Spanish Parliament. These demands are only fuelled and supported by a small group of political parties, as it was portrayed by Rajoy.
Reality contradicts Rajoy
Depending on the individual poll, between 74% and 81% of Catalans want to hold a self-determination vote. The last poll said that 47% of Catalans would vote for independence, while 28% would oppose, 11% were still undecided and 11% would abstain from voting. This means that in a hypothetical referendum, with such abstention levels, the "yes" to independence would win with some 56% of the votes. On top of this, the 2012 and 2013 massive demonstrations that respectively put 1.5 million and 1.6 million on the streets – according to Catalan Police figures – were organised by grassroots organisations, which are also those pushing forward the independence agenda.
The Spanish Government will not talk about self-determination
Rajoy is downplaying the scale of support for self-determination. However, on Tuesday he recognised that Catalonia's was "a deep political problem". In that same interview he repeated he is "open to dialogue" but not about independence, nor about a self-determination vote. "If dialogue is to have me saying "yes" to the [self-determination] consultation vote", then "it is impossible". In this vein he reminded listeners that the Spanish Parliament, where the governing People's Party (PP) holds an absolute majority, rejected the vote and said it was "illegal". And the Constitutional Court, which is very politicised and controlled by the PP and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), both of whom oppose self-determination, said the same, insisted Rajoy. However, the Prime Minister forgot to mention that the Constitutional Court also encouraged public authorities to talk and find a political solution, while recognising "Catalonia's right to decide" on its political future, in a wording that was quite ambiguous since it also explicitly rejected "self-determination".
On Wednesday, before the Spanish Parliament, the PM stated that he is only willing to talk about the things that really concern "all the Catalans", which are the economic recovery and the funding of the Catalan Government, according to him. In fact, in the last few weeks he has explicitly asked the Catalan authorities to give up on their demands to organise a self-determination vote as the sine qua non condition for sitting down to talk. Otherwise, there is no dialogue, despite Rajoy constantly repeating that "he is wiling to talk" but only within the bounds of things allowed in the current legal framework.
According to Rajoy, a self-determination referendum would be illegal, despite Catalan constitutional experts having identified up to 5 different legal ways to make this vote possible. In fact, many voices have taken the line that with a flexible interpretation of the Constitution, such a vote would be possible. One of these ways was transferring to the Catalan Government the immediate power to organise a self-determination referendum using Article 150.2 of the Constitution, a petition debated and rejected by the Spanish Parliament a month ago. Back then, Catalan representatives insisted that the rejection was a political decision, and not a legal one.
The Constitutional Reform is blocked by Rajoy
On top of this, Rajoy also referred once again to the reform of the Spanish Constitution that the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) says it wants to promote, although it has not presented any concrete plan for this in the past two years. In recent months, the Spanish Government and the PP have totally rejected reform of the Constitution, which would aim to set a better accommodation for Catalonia and to increase its self-government. The People's Party stated that such a reform has "no consensus" to be adopted, and therefore they were refusing to even debate about it. In this vein, they have blocked any initiative in this sense. In addition, Rajoy himself stated that it was "absurd" to reform the entire Constitution to satisfy people who support Catalonia's self-determination, because according to him "they will never be satisfied". It needs to be noted that the Spanish Constitution was ammended in September 2011 in a process lasting less than a month, with the votes of the PP and PSOE and without being ratified through a citizen referendum.
On Wednesday afternoon the Spanish PM held a meeting in his residence La Moncloa with the Presidents of the largest Spanish companies. The Presidents of Santander, BBVA and LA Caixa banks, telecom multinational Telefonica, construction companies ACS, Acciona and Ferrovial, retail El Corte Inglés, Inditex – owner of Zara – and Mango and energy multinationals Repsol and Iberdrola were some of the attendees. They form the Business Council for Competitiveness. Rajoy told them that he is willing to talk with Catalonia, just not about the self-determination demands. Rajoy told them that political instability would be bad for the economy and the recovery from the economic crisis, directly affecting their business. And he also asked them to help him show "the plurality" of Catalan society, since according to him, it has "many demands" beyond self-determination and independence. For instance demands regarding the economic recovery.
In conclusion, the Spanish Prime Minister has to date been publicly downplaying the Catalan self-determination issue or directly ignoring the democratic and peaceful demands of millions of Catalan citizens by refusing to discuss them. Rajoy's strategy continues to be frontal opposition, but he is now trying to paint the picture that Catalans are mostly concerned about other things and not about independence. In fact, once again, opinion polls show that Catalans are mostly concerned about many things, such as high unemployment rates, political corruption and self-determination. Rajoy's strategy is thus not to talk about the most uncomfortable topics, self-determination and corruption, among others, and to repeat that the economic recovery is starting.