Aznar demands jail-time for anyone organising an illegal self-determination vote
In a clear reference to the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar – who chairs the governing People’s Party (PP) think tank – asked for the approval of a former law sentencing any public figure organising a referendum that has previously been declared illegal to a 5-year incarceration. Aznar, who led the Spanish Government between 1996 and 2004, is a strong supporter of Spanish nationalist stances and has requested PM Mariano Rajoy to take a harder approach regarding Catalonia’s self-determination claims. The PP replied Aznar that currently there are “enough mechanisms” “guaranteeing” that an illegal vote will not take place. The Catalan President criticised Aznar’s “old-fashioned language”.
Barcelona (ACN).- In a clear reference to the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar – who chairs the governing People’s Party (PP) think tank FAES – asked on Tuesday for the approval of a former law sentencing any public figure organising a referendum that has previously been declared illegal to a 5-year incarceration. Aznar, who led the Spanish Government between 1996 and 2000, is a strong supporter of Spanish nationalist stances, constantly defending the unity of Spain. Furthermore, he has requested on many occasions PM Mariano Rajoy to take a harder approach regarding Catalonia’s self-determination claims, as well as to put in place further Neo-Liberal policies. Aznar’s words were criticised by the political community as a whole.
Political parties criticise Aznar’s words
The PP replied to Aznar that currently there are “enough mechanisms” “guaranteeing” that an illegal vote will not take place. In addition, they stated that there is “the sufficient political will” to stop this vote from ever happening. On Wednesday, the Spanish Finance Minister (and PP Member), Cristóbal Montoro, insisted that Madrid will never accept a self-determination vote in Catalonia and there is nothing to negotiate on this issue.
The Catalan President and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, criticised Aznar’s “old-fashioned language”. Furthermore, the Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, requests the Spanish Executive to make clear that “nobody will go to jail” for “exercising democracy”. Homs added that Aznar’s words are from “another regime” and he should “convince himself” that “Spain is a democracy”.
A Spanish MP from the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) pointed out that “in democracy”, the “normal” thing is to “request jail-time for those not allowing people to vote, but not the other way round”. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) stated that “the political issue between Catalonia and Spain is a major one” and “it will not be solved with testosterone and threats”. The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition stated that Aznar’s proposal is “authoritarian” and “it is a far-cry away from Europe, common sense and democracy”.
The two minority parties in the Catalan Parliament, the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) and the radical left-wing and independence party CUP all reacted to Aznar’s statements. The C’s accused Aznar of being a “coward” when he was in government, as he “surrendered” and “kneeled” in front of Catalan nationalism, and “turned Spain in”. On the contrary, the CUP stated that in Spain democracy is still “in black and white”. “It reminds us of an old picture”, “an image we though had been buried”, indirectly referring to the 1960s and Franco times.
Who is Aznar?
José María Aznar became internationally famous when he participated in the Azores meeting that approved Iraq’s invasion in 2003, appearing in a photo alongside US President George W. Bush, UK PM Tony Blair and Portugal PM José Durao Barroso (currently the European Commission’s President). He left the Spanish Premiership in April 2004, after the Madrid bombing attacks of the 11th of March and the Government’s insistence to link them to ETA and not to Islamic terrorism. Aznar’s apparent heir, Mariano Rajoy, lost the elections and Socialist José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero became Prime Minister, in office until 2011. In 1996 Aznar was able to form a government thanks to the parliamentary support of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU), which now runs the Catalan Government and fully supports Catalonia’s self-determination process. However, relationships between the CiU and Aznar deteriorated since several parts of the parliamentary stability agreement were not fully respected by the PP.
In 2000, Aznar won his second elections and held an absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament, with no need from the CiU. He then begun to recentralise powers, which led to the first increase of Catalan independence support. Furthermore, he developed an economic policy based on the liberalisation of land to boost the construction sector and easy access to credit, which ultimately resulted in a colossal real estate bubble and high levels of private debt. However, since the effects of the financial crisis did not arrive in Spain until 2008, Aznar still has a wide support among many Conservative voters, who consider his governing period as the most prosperous of the last decades. In addition, they sympathise with his strong Spanish nationalist stances.