The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Catalonia Tilts Towards Independence As Madrid Spins

The results of Catalonia’s elections are in, and, as the polls indicated, pro-independence parties won a large majority of the seats in the regional assembly. Madrid’s spinmeisters are already working overtime to show that, through some mysterious logic, these results are really a blow to Catalonia’s independence movement.

Madrid, for example, has been quick to point out that CiU, Catalonia’s ruling nationalist party, actually lost seats in the election. Evidently, we’re supposed to agree that the fact that they lost these seats to even harder-line pro-independence candidates is not a significant detail. Spanish politicians have further claimed that CiU’s loss has hurt the legitimacy of Catalonia’s pro-independence president Artur Mas:

Politicians from Spain’s ruling centre-right Popular party attacked Mr Mas on Monday, saying his gamble of calling a snap election had failed and dealt a severe setback to Catalonia’s independence movement.

José Manuel García-Margallo, Spain’s foreign minister, said the election result was “a good result for Catalonia, Spain and Europe”. María Dolores Cospedal, general secretary of the Popular party, said the result showed how “the political strategy of Artur Mas has been a fiasco”.

Clearly, Madrid is desperate to convince the world that an independence referendum in Catalonia won’t happen. Via Meadia is less than impressed with this narrative. The big winners in the election, as we see it, were pro-independence, anti-austerity parties that think that all the tax money Catalonia sends to Madrid would be better spent balancing budgets and staving off austerity at home.

Even with his party’s loss of seats, Catalonian President Artur Mas can still afford to take an anti-Madrid, pro-referendum line; indeed, it is now more likely than ever that he will do so. Despite what politicians in Madrid say, referendum backers in Barcelona emerge from the elections with a stronger hand. Mas is likely to push further down this road; if nothing else, threatening to hold a referendum improves his bargaining position with Madrid in the inevitable haggling over scraps of cash that will now consume Spanish life.

For Madrid and the Eurozone as a whole, that isn’t good news.

Published on November 27, 2012 7:00 pm