Democratic Crisis in Catalonia
On October 1, the referendum summoned unilaterally by the government of Spanish region of Catalonia, meant to decide whether Catalonia declared its independence from Spain, took a violent turn, leaving almost 900 injured----mostly citizens who were peacefully exercising their right to vote. Using rubber bullets and nightsticks, the police tried to stop the referendum from happening by removing citizens from voting polls and other locations by force.
According to the Spanish newspaper El Periódico, the referendum was declared illegal by both the President Mariano Rajoy’s government and the Constitutional Tribunal. However, Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont declared that, with allegedly 90% of the 2,2 million votes in favor of the independency, Catalonia was to begin the process of secession. Puigdemont later stated that there could be room for dialogue with the Spanish government over the matter, while President Rajoy stated that the referendum “did not happen,” and its attempt was stopped by a police intervention classified by many as abusive and disproportionate.
The accusations of “social repression” and “violation of civil rights” on the government have set off all the alarms, bringing the European Union and even the United Nations into the picture---according to news agency Reuters, the highest United Nations human rights official called on Spanish authorities “to investigate thoroughly and impartially violence linked to Catalonia’s independence referendum, and to hold talks to resolve the secession issue.” The situation might even become more strained, as Spanish Justice Secretary Rafael Catalá declared that he would be willing to call down a Constitutional article to shut down Catalonia’s regional autonomy in favor of national governmental control.
What’s clear is that Spain is suffering its most tense and challenging social and political event since the establishment of its democracy after the death of dictator Franco in 1975. The future of Catalonia as part of Spain is still uncertain, as so are the consequences of this rift in Spanish society.