Catalonia 2015 regional elections for dummies: why some people in Catalonia is supporting an ILLEGAL pro-secession process ?

Disclaimer. This post is a summary of the previous eight posts of this blog on which I have researched about the Catalonian elections and the reasons of present Catalonian discomfort. Although I am spanish citizen (from Madrid), although I am interested in politics in general, for lack of time, I do not usually follow spanish politics.

But I was hooked by this issue after seeing a TV interview of the present president of Catalonia Regional Government, Mr. Artur Mas speaking very frivolously about a very serious issue (specially in Spain with well-known precedents): an illegal independence process he and his coalition might start after september 27th elections (even if the support is under 50% of voters; of course if the thing is not legal, then nobody cares about the percent of support anyway).

My position is that there is not yet a correct political theory of secessions and that there is not such a thing as a “right to decide” internationally accepted, as some nationalists claim. Although for me it is perfectly ok to discuss about secession as a legal process, I prefer that political processes in my country and in any country are channeled under the rule of law. This makes them more predictable and much less harmful. And this is not what Mr. Artur Mas and Catalan pro-secession  organizations are proposing.  

1.Catalonia,  a very brief introduction to its economics and politics.

For  those readers which hear about the name Catalonia for the first time (reader, nothing to be ashamed about this: admittedly, nobody knows neither all world regions, even those as important as Catalonia !!… Whaaat ? You don´t even know what and where Spain is ? Well maybe this post is not for you then…), let me explain very briefly that it is a region in Spain, 6º in area, 2º in population and 4º in GDP per capita (111% over EU average). It is a very dynamic region in economic activities due to its privileged location: almost every product exported from Spain to the Mediterranean countries such mediterranean France, Italy etc…will probably pass through this region (either it is exported by truck, train or sea). If you have an industry in Spain it is very likely that your main market are EU countries and  that your favourite location would be either Basque Country (if you markets are Atlantic or Baltic EU countries) either Catalonia (if your markets are mediterranean EU countries). While England GDP per capita is around 40.000 usd, Scottish figure is around 28.000 usd.   In this respect Catalonia is very different from Scotland or Slovenia whose location for industry at present is not so excellent.


EU main trans-national transport & logistic corridors.

Until 27 th september 2015, when regional elections in Catalonia will take place, the reader will probably see from time to time in the media he follows some news about an independence process that might, eventually, start after these elections.

The first, and most important point to inform to the reader about this process is that, if it starts,  it would be an illegal  process. Spanish Constitution as any other in the world does not allow secession and the Catalonia regional government, while they have asked for the “right” to decide if to stay or leave Spain to the Spanish Government, they did not get it. Of course since it is not in the Constitution the spanish Government can not grant this “right”. And in fact there is not even such a right accepted internationally except for some cases related with decolonization processes.

The second important point to know is that Catalonia is very diverse in population and political views. Due to its privileged location it has attracted a lot of migration from the rest of Spain during the past two centuries. According to this diversity it used to be a region very plural in political positions and views. Before the 2008 crisis people pro-independence in Catalonia was around 20-25%. Now, according to the last polls september 2015, this figure is around 45%.

It is true that there is a regional language, Catalan, spoken also by some people in other regions in Spain (such as Valencia or Balearic islands), and that, as it is well-known by social scientists, regional minority languages can cause nationalism. According to this, Catalonian people´s votes usually were divided within those which vote for nationalist political parties (such as the until now right-center Convergencia or leftist ERC) and those who vote for political parties of national or country level (such as right PP, left PSOE,  or the new parties such as center Ciudadanos or extreme left new party Podemos).

Usually nationalist voters are geographically located in inner rural areas and voters for national level parties voters are  located in coastal areas where big cities, such as where the beautiful Barcelona and the old Tarragona are located. While not totally exact we  can say that the old catalonian families are now more in the inner rural areas and that people in big urban areas has probably some ancestors in other regions of Spain. This is not to say that this is an issue: Catalonian nationalists have a territorial citizenship concept and not one rooted in where from were your ancestors, but it is relevant for language issues. In next image blue areas are the areas where nationalist vote is located and red areas where national parties vote is located.


Tabarnia is a name for the rich coastal area of Barcelona and Tarragona provinces. It seems that a secessionist movement of this region from the rest of Catalonia is starting in the last years. I do not know if they have overcome the anecdotic stage.

2. Why are now more people pro-secession than a few years ago.

So why a few years ago pro-independence voters where about 20-25% and now this percent is close to 50% ?.  Why Convergencia party, the party which is governing now, was usually moderate and supporting the statu quo in this issue (that is to stay in Spain) and now it is pro-independence ?.

In the past posts I have considered several hypothesis that I will describe bellow. For each one I explain why I consider them incorrect. I will give a more detailed account about the one I do consider correct.

Is it because the rich Spanish government is oppressing the poor people of Catalonia ?

Well, in 1978, the catalonian main nationalist parties did participate in the design of the spanish Constitution, Convergencia voted for it (not ERC) and later in a national referendum 90% of Catalonian people (with 70% of potential electors having voted) voted for  it. With this Constitution started in Spain the Comunidades Autonomas system of self-government which is very close to Federalism. It is said that a Comunidad Autónoma in Spain has more independence than most Federal States in other constitutions. On the other hand, we repeat that Catalonia is the 4º richest region (Comunidad Autónoma) in Spain. So I do not think that objectively speaking, the political or economic oppression interpretation is a correct way of seeing this issue. That is not to say that there are not frictions between Catalonia regional government and  spanish government. Of course there are frictions, but of the same kind of the last 35 years and the kind of frictions that regional-central governments usually has. Reader can judge by himself (I do not know in detail the claims of catalan nationalists against central  government so I do not  know if the linked article reflects correctly the situation; regarding the fiscal balance claim has been debated a lot publicly by experts and the situation is not clear at all as a book recently published by a catalan writer suggests; regarding infraestructures I am not well informed; in any case these are the issues that are dividing both parts now).

Is it then the inverse problem, is it the case of a rich region that wants to leave a poor country ?

Well maybe that can explain why some, a minority, of Catalonian people are now pro-independence. For instance there is a team of deservedly prestigious catalan economists wich are working for american prestigious academic institutions (such as Harvard, Princeton or Columbia) and also for european institutions such as LSE, which are pro-independence and probably the main reason for them is this rich region-poor country one.  But a few elitist academics does not decide elections. The fact is, as we have seen before, that the people who support the statu quo are those who live in the coastal areas and those which are more pro-independence are those who live in inner rural areas. This drives us to answer no to above question.

When considering the provincial aggregate the PIB per Capita difference between provinces is flat. But when we consider more small geographic units, unequality differences start to arise as we can see in this relevant document about the economics of CataloniaL’anàlisi de les economies comarcals i locals de Catalunya, amb dades de l’any 2008, mostra que només hi ha deu comarques que generin un producte interior brut per habitant superior al de la mitjana catalana. Segons l’Institut d’Estadística de Catalunya (Idescat), la Ribera d’Ebre destaca amb un PIB per habitant de 57.500 euros, que quasi dobla la mitjana catalana. La Vall d’Aran, el Barcelonès, el Tarragonès i l’Alt Penedès són altres comarques que destaquen per generar un PIB per habitant un 10% superior a la mitjana. D’altra banda, el Priorat és la comarca amb menys nivell de PIB per capita, amb 14.200 euros, i se situa a més d’un 50% per sota de la mitjana catalana, seguida pel Montsià i la Terra Alta.

Translation of main message of the document: in 2008 those comarcas (local government division that can include several cities) that had a GDP per capita over average were

–Ribera de Ebre (this is the area where most of Catalonian energy sector is located),

–Vall de Arán (it is a pyrenean valley where Baqueira Beret, one of  the biggest spanish ski resorts is located; there is a local dialect which does not belong to Catalan but to Occitan; because of this as far as I know this valley has not a nationalism hostility towards Spain),

–Barcelonés (the city of Barcelona and some adyacent cities: Badalona, Hospitalet, San Adrián de Besos and Santa Coloma de Gramanet with a diversified economic model),

–Tarragonés (idem regarding the city of Tarragona and adyacent cities) and

–Alt Penedés (Barcelona province, close to the coast, located south of Barcelona city, about 75 km; this is the province where wineries such as Cava (a kind of internationally renown and sold Champagne, in fact much better :-)) producers are located).

There is a very interesting map in the documents that shows which comarcas are over average and which ones are under average. All data are from 2008, that is pre-crisis. I would say that these inequalities have probably increased nowdays.


PIB per habitant

PIB per habitant

Last data I have found so far is 2010, which is very weird. Didn´t they produced data for  all years up to 2014 ?.

Note. It is very difficult for me to parse the fact that these neo-liberal pro-capitalism academic economists that have made their careers obtaining results within the neo-classical economic theory are supporting an illegal pro-secession process led, as we will see in next point, by extreme left organizations. This is for  me the greatest mystery of all, in this Catalonian issue. End of note.

So what are the real causes of present situation ?

In my opinion (after deep analysis, of course), what is happening in Catalonia is exactly what is happening in many other places in the world: some places (mostly those well geographically located) are seeing the benefits of globalization more clearly than others. It is exactly the same it is happening in England where Londoners, in general are seeing the global benefits  while the rest of England are not seeing it, or in a different way, and this might exlain the recent success of Mr. Corbyn.

In Catalonia concretely, coastal urbanized areas are seeing it, while more inner rural areas are not. So, in Catalonia  the usual nationalist problem is intermingled with the pro and anti globalization problem. In fact all the organizations (political parties and para-political associations) that are leading the pro-independence movement belong to the extreme left.

Let´s see this in detail: the three pro-independence coalitions are those bellow. In red those from the extreme left; in blue those from the center or right.

Junts pel Si (ERC +  Convergencia, de Artur Mas Convergencia, de Artur Mas). This coalition support and lead the illegal pro-independence process, that would eventually start even without more than 50% of voter´s support.

CUP.  This party supports illegal process  but only if more than 50% of voters support it.  

Cataluña Sí que es Pot (Podemos+ICV+Equo+IU). This coalition supports the “right to decide” and most of its members are also  pro-independence, but want to get it rough legal steps. This is a big difference comparing with the coalitions or parties above.

To these political parties we must add bellow´s para-political organizations, also leaded by the extreme left:

ANC, Asamblea Nacional Catalana , a

— Omniun Cultural.

These two para-political associations have been responsible for the organization of the huge rally in Barcelona the reader has probably see in the news. The most accurate figure is around 700.000 persons, which is not 1,5 million as some say, but is huge anyway….

A little research shows us that most of the leaders of these political parties or para-political organizations, or most of these political parties /para-political organizations come from already dissolved parties such as PCE (communist party of the Eurocommunism kind) o or PSUC (not even Eurocommunist). All these extreme left organizations are working very hard for getting the secession since the beginning of the crisis in  2007-2008.

ERC is an old nationalist left-wing old pro-independence party. In 1934, led by Lluís Companys, the elected Catalan President, the party declared an independent Catalan Republic within the Spanish Federation proposed by Companys, following the entry of right-wing ministers of the Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (CEDA) into the Government of the Spanish Republic, however the party leaders (including Companys) and all the Catalan Government (called Generalitat) were arrested and jailed for this, and special autonomy laws for Catalonia were suspended until 1936. Despite  these precedents, truth is that until now,  under the 1978 Constitution even if they are pro-independence they have kept themselves under the rule of  law. While it is considered left-wing they are more nationalist than leftist, and in any caso not comunists.

Convergencia, which had a lot of support among nationalists since its foundation in 80´s, used to be an anti-secession center-right party, but due to the globalization process and recent crisis most of its voters, located in aforesaid inner rural areas has been declassed , so that now its sociological basis is shifting to the left. In fact the real name of this party was Convergencia i  Unió,  a coalition of two parties which has been broken due to the recent Convergencia support to the secession.  This is why I corrected my initial colour assignment of this political party.  I have to study this with more detail but I would say that  Unió kept the right voters of the ex-Coalition and Convergencia is assembling its left voters. The fact is that Unió is experiencing a big electoral decline, a fact that would confirm my suspicion that CiU voters has been declassed by globalization process and crisis. It is my opinion that when a political party experiences such a shift in its sociological basis, sooner of later a leader will emerge for a new party under the same past name. In this case the ideology changed but the party name and leader remained,

In short: pro-secession movement is an extreme left movement based on inter-catalonian regional unequalities, that has been joined very recently by Convergencia whose  leader, Mr. Artur Mas is trying now to lead the movement. But very well-informed catalonian people thinks that the extreme left is just using Mr. Artur Mas for showing a more friendly face to some voters, and at the end of the day they will drop  him.  Moreover his possible implication in some corruption affairs (this is still under research) is causing a lot of discomfort within his extreme left partners. But another possible outcome is that the experienced politician, Mr. Mas, will be able to find a place within his new friends. Of course he will be forced to make some changes such as stop using a tie :-).


Mr. Artur Mas, leader of Convergencia.

In my opinion, for all we have already explained, if this illegal pro-secession process is a problem, Mr Mas is neither the cause nor its solution.

3. Real problems and its instrumentalization by extreme left organizations.

All that being said, the truth is that the problems these organizations are using for pushing on the secession process are not artificial, they are real problems:

–nationalism, as it is well-known since Gellner, Anderson, Hobsbawn and others, is caused by the contradiction of the equal opportunity (for all in under a State) claimed by the rule of law and the reality that if I have born in a family that speaks the minority language, my opportunities are reduced.

–differential effects of globalization process on regions are also well-known.

And also, it is well-known that, according to marxist theory, nationalist movements are a very interesting tool for reaching power in democratic states.

According to this all these organizations are combining above´s described real problems with traditional marxist theory to obtain more power. How they are mixing the globalization problem with the nationalism problem is something complex that I do not  understand yet.

Of course there is nothing wrong about all this. The sad part is:

–first, that marxist theory (and therefore extreme left organizations ) are very well-known for their disrespect of the rule of law. After the illegal secession process (if they reach the minimum support) some of the pro-secession organizations are already planning civil disobedience actions. In fact during the political  campaign that has started a few days ago, they are not offering any economic model  or strategy, they are not claiming that they are the best at wealth generation, but are already competing with each other regarding their ability to perform civil disobedience actions !!. How far is all of this from the violent terrorism spain has already faced ? I do not know. Truth is that catalonian pro-independence people has so far always refused violent action.

–and second that they really do not have any real economic project towards the creation of the wealth of nations, just defensive projects very similar if not exactly equal to communism. And we all know what is the economic performance of countries that embraced communism. I prefer a democratic system with communist parties. But I would also rather prefer that these communist parties stay in the opposition instead of government.

According to all the points that we have explained, it should be clear that to the 20-25% of people that si pro-indepdendence almost by tradition,  in the last years another 20% has been added to the pro-secession bag. These new 20% include extreme leftist probably from urban areas and declassed people who usually voted for Convergencia when this party was not pro-independence.

4. What events should we expect ?.

Spanish present right-wingF PP government, as any other world government would have done, has said that in case an illegal secession process starts, they will follow all steps allowed in the spanish Constitution to stop it.

I think this is the farthest we will go. Nationalists will then try to turn this central government legal intervention into victimism, as usual. But there is a (very unlikely but not impossible) chance that pro-secessionists insist in going ahead with the process and start behaving violently.  What´s next ?. Who knows ?

But things can turn out even nastier. It is the case that two or three months after these regional elections in Catalonia, there are national elections in Spain. And it is the case that some of the parties which has some chance to obtain victory in these national elections (called General Elections) and therefore to govern are very friendly with the “right to decide” and even are completely ok with secession of Catalonia. I am referring specially to Podemos a new radical left party  which is governing now, for instance Madrid City after the very recent local elections.

Now if this party wins the general elections how will they treat the ILEGAL pro-secession problem if it happens ? Will they follow the steps stated in the Constitution or will they accept secessionists faits accomplis ?. Well Mr Iglesias, leader of Podemos has clearly said that they will act legally, and I personally think they would,  but doubt remains.

In this case, if Catalonian pro-secessionists starts the ILEGAL process and Podemos wins general elections and do not follow legal process stated in the Constitution then nasty things might start to happen.  Again this is a very unlikely,  though not an impossible  event.

So am I recommending International Brigadiers to start to polish their boots ? Not really, just stay tuned !!


Una respuesta to “Catalonia 2015 regional elections for dummies: why some people in Catalonia is supporting an ILLEGAL pro-secession process ?”

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