Devolution Watch
Spain Talks Tough as Catalonia Independence Vote Approaches

The strain on Spain is not yet on the wane: an election this Sunday in Catalonia could push the region towards independence from the Madrid. The WSJ reports:

Together for Yes, a slate of legislative candidates who pledge to make Catalonia a new European nation within 18 months, leads in the polls, though falling just short of an absolute majority in the 135-seat Catalan parliament. Secessionists could obtain that majority with support of the Popular Unity Candidacy or CUP, a radical left pro-independence party, but the two factions differ over how strong a popular mandate would be needed to move toward independence.

The national government in Madrid and Catalan unionists are placing their hopes on a high turnout from what they see as a silent majority favoring the status quo.

Last year the pro-independence movement in Catalonia experienced a setback when the country’s Constitutional Court declared a referendum held in November to be unconstitutional. The Spanish executive likewise has been steadfastly opposed to any referendum, rejecting the region’s right to hold any such vote. The upcoming elections are functioning, therefore, as a plebiscite on the independence question, with a victory for pro-secession candidates giving the local government a mandate to press ahead.

Even a responding victory for Together for Yes and CUP, however, isn’t likely to convince Madrid to step aside. The region is one of the wealthiest in Spain, and the government has threatened Catalonia with a bevy of consequences if it breaks away from the country, including lost Spanish and EU citizenship, and the exclusion of Barcelona from the Spanish soccer league La Liga.

A victory for the secessionists could lead to a public, aggressive, and high-stakes showdown with Madrid, with uncertain results. Interesting times on the European continent.

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