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In Catalonia, it’s a not-so-happy anniversary for the Spanish constitution

40 years after it was passed, most Catalans would vote against the text


06 December 2018 10:10 AM


Alan Ruiz Terol | Barcelona

For many Catalans, the 40th anniversary of the Spanish constitution is not a day for celebration. Recent polls show that 57% of people in Catalonia would reject the text if it was voted today, with only 17.4% backing it.

On December 6, 1978, support for the constitution was overwhelming in Catalonia: 90.46%, two points above the referendum results in Spain as a whole.

"Constitution was passed with dictatorship leaders still there"

This was three years after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, and "the Constitution was passed while the dictatorship leaders were still there," says Mar Aguilera, a constitutional law professor at the University of Barcelona.

"Today, most Catalans have moved on from the constitution," said Catalan vice president Pere Aragonès. "Therefore, the Catalan government, with the president leading the way, responds to the will of our society."

Pro-independence officials avoided attending events celebrating the constitution’s anniversary, in yet another example of the long-running animosity between governments in Catalonia and Madrid.

Although the situation cooled down from a year ago, when Spain seized control of Catalan institutions following a declaration of independence, the upcoming trial against pro-independence leaders is set to raise tensions again.

Right to self-determination in constitution?

Many Catalan parties have long called on Spanish authorities to recognize the right to self-determination and allow a referendum on independence. Yet, Madrid maintains that Spain’s unity is protected in the Carta Magna and allowing such vote would open the can of worms for fracturing Spain.


  • "Today, most Catalans have moved on from the constitution"

    Pere Aragonès · Catalan vice president

In 2010, a landmark ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court struck down several articles from a proposed new Statue of Autonomy for Catalonia, in what is regarded as an important catalyst for the start of the push for independence.

Spanish president Pedro Sánchez describes the constitution as "the framework that allowed us to understand each other through plurality and diversity, and it favored coexistence and territorial cohesion in our country."

"Reform Spain, but not breaking it"

While Sánchez himself is in favor of reforming the constitution, advocating for major changes such as suspending the king’s inviolability and modifying the territorial structure, he rejects allowing a vote on independence.

A constitutional reform has been welcomed by other parties too, such as Ciutadans (Cs), the largest unionist party in Catalonia. Yet, their priorities are substantially different from those of their political rivals.

"Voting Ciutadans means voting to reform the constitution, not destroying it," says Cs leader Inés Arrimadas, in a reference to pro-independence parties. "Voting Ciutadans means voting to reform Spain, not breaking it."

Along with Cs, Spain’s largest party, the PP, also supports a constitutional reform that takes back devolved powers, thus amending Spain’s decentralization.

Amending constitution for the worse?


Miquel Roca, a Catalan lawyer and politician who helped draft the Constitution 40 years ago, is wary of the possibility of reforming the constitution, warning that it could be for the worse.

Roca made references to the rise of the far right in a recent regional election - in part, attributed to their use of Catalonia and the suspension of its self-rule in their campaign rhetoric. “I don’t know how that would work out,” said Roca, “I’m not happy with what I’m hearing, these days.”



  • The Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, presenting the constitution's 40th anniversary events (by Congreso)

  • The Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, presenting the constitution's 40th anniversary events (by Congreso)