Sat May 13th, 2006 at 02:51:22 AM EST
The first left-wing government in more than 60 years in my little beatiful Catalonia is in disarray...and I hate to say it: another left-wing government is going to hell. If there is any place where this should interest someone is here.
Surprisingly enough nobody seems to care about it outside of Spain. It has gathered all the headlines of Spain : La Vanguardia El Periodico or El Pais talk about it. But barely a blip outside the borders.
Since it has deep implications for the Catalan Statute (the law fixing the relations between Catalonia an Spain) and for the future coalitions of PM Zapatero, it is the only thing people are talking about..... in Spain.
From the diaries ~ whataboutbob
Yesterday night the president of Catalonia Pasqual Maragall announced that the Statute approved by the Spanish Congress will be set to a referendum (compulsory) on June 18th. At the same time he announced that all the ministers belonging to ERC (left-wing catalan separatist party of Catalonia) were dismissed. He also announced that elections will be called before the end of the year, two years before required.
It may seem a simple news for any foreign journalists. But as always this news represent a huge shift not only for Catalonia but also in the relations between Spain and Catalonia and inside the government of PM Zapatero.
As always, some perspective is needed.. and it is not a short history. It reads like a fascinating narrative...but it could bore any...well it may be boring as hell...nahhh it is really interesting!!
The present left-wing government of Catalonia was born after the last catalan elections two years ago. It is (was) composed by three left-wing parties. The main party -PSC- is just the Federal-Catalan party directly linked with the national PSOE (presently in government with Zapatero as his leader). The president of Catalonia was the head of PSC-PSOE Pasqual Maragall (former major of Barcelona during the Olympic Games of 1992), one of the main supporters of Zapatero when he got the presidency of the national party PSOE...and later on the Spanish government. The second party is the green party IC. The third party in the coalition was ERC, the left-wing separatist party. You could imagine the screaming in the Spanish right when "the" friend of Zapatero and member of the social-democrats made a deal with an "independentist" party..a party advocating not for a federal Spain (as the green party or even some sectors of PSC propose) but a complete independent Catalonia.
Even more surprisingly ERC (which is also present in the Spanish Congress with a small but important representation) voted for Zaptero as Prime Minister and supported each one of his laws.
And then the Statute came. The governemnt and the main oppsotion party in Catalonia (CIU, a coalition of catalan nationalistic center and center-right parties but against independence) agreed on a new Statute for Cataloniafixing the relation between the central government and the Autonomous government of Catalonia (called Generalitat). All parties in Catalonia agreed on this new Statute except for the Popular Party (yes, the right-wing centralistic Spanish party has a 10% of votes in Catalonia...more than I would like but 30 points less than any other region of Spain)...and from then on everything has been downhill for the catalan government.
The Statute approved by the Catalan Parliament has to be accepted by the Spanish Congress and then approved by the citizens of Catalonia in a referendum...(call it what you like but the Spanish constitution was very smart..they really believed in different powers balancing each other..actually they were balancing each other since the beginning). Problem was that the new Statute stablished a complete and full federal-confederal Spain (if extended to other Spanish Autonomies). Competences, justice system, taxes and symbols were all typical of a strongly federal state. Compare this with the present situation were depending on the topic at hand Spain can be central, federal or even confederal.
The new Statue generated a federal-confederal system of taxes, a confederal use of symbols and set the role of the central and the autonomous govern in each one of the relevant issues: health care, education,environment.... The number of competences purely in hands of the central government was reduced to a minimum and, correspondingly, very important competences were regarded as shared. Another important chunck became absolutely federal. Furthermore..Catalonia was defined as a nation inside the constituionl system of government of Spain, a complete confederal symbolic system: a nation constituted as Autonomous Region (something that could very well had been unconstitutional)
And all hell broke loose in the right-wing elements of Spain. Boycott campaigns against Catolonia. Econmic interests crying foul against the possibility of Catalonia collecting their own taxes (and sharing the money afterwards). The tax system in the Statute could not sustain the poor regions of Spain and the huge windfall of money that the capital Madrid (I insist Madrid city not autonomous region) receives. If the contributions of Catalonia (and another two or three rich regions of Spain) are diminished because the money is now controlled in each region (and MAdrid can not trick the numbers)...either the poor of Spain or Madrid city would be hit..and the corporate power started a huge propaganda campaign, they knew who would lose...and all the Madrid-based media followed suit with one voice.
But worse than that, Zapatero has an important base of left-wing people on the economy but with an ideology about Spain as a heavily centralized State which has been somehow convinced that some Autonomy was a good idea... as long as Spain remained unique and strong. Zapatero was losing them.
And then ZP shifted and showed that he is here to stay. He made a deal with CIU, the opposition party in Catalonia and opposition of his (now former) fella in Catalonia. This was exaclty the same thing that former president F. Gonzalez had done, only that at that time, CIU was also ruling Catalonia. The deal was simple. "I leave the federal structure intact except for the symbols AND taxes". So Catalonia becomes a federal state but with no prospect of becoming an independent-confederal symbolic entity whatsoever. And the tax system.. "sorry I have to calm down the economic powers around here. So we scrap your proposal but improve the present system in a way that satisfies another very important region (nation?) of Spain. Andalucia ". Andalucia is probably a future powerhouse with very strong economic growth. "Catalonia can not beat Madrid city but Catalonia and Andalucia ...you bet".
But that was not all, Zapatero promised a complete and continuous improvement of the Catalan tax system until reaching a purely federal system (no way confederal as the Basque country has of course) if CIU supports Zapatero in the future. Zapatero would slowly shift power from Madrid to Andalucia and Catalonia.
The picture of the two leaders hand in hand was a complete shock. As the details of the agreement became clear everybody was shaking his heads. Zapatero had not only dodged a bullet (from the spanish perspective) but he had also became much more strong. He had decided to leave a very left-wing party for a center, center-right party. Some people even talked about a future government where CIU would hold government positions in Spain for the first time in history....Zapatero would retain the Spanish "intelligencia" with his civil right laws, the economic center outside of Madrid with the new tax system and also those with an idea of a centralized Spain...after all the new Statute was an improvement of the present status (and Statute), wasn't it?.
Pasqual Maragall had to support the new Statute although he would have liked a little bit more...on taxes. Pasqual Maragall is the most federal (even confederal) element of the social-democrats. He believes that a fully federal Spain is the best thing for Spain, and that it should be called as such. The majority of PSOE does not agree (not even PSC). But here he had a federal Statute except for the taxes...so shouldn't he be happy? well, not really. The agreement with Zpataero with his opposition meant that PSOE would support his oppostion party in the future!!! Yes...next time around he would better win with a complete majority, otherwise PSOE could force him to..resign in favour of the oppostion.
Everything was wild enough as it seemed... The president of Spain in love with the head of the opposition of his own party in Catalonia (called Artur Mas) wishing that his old friend got out of the scene in the next election.
And of course everything got worse...due to ERC.. the separatist party. Given that the confederal symbols (Catalonia was no longer nation but something that the Catalan Parlament thinks it is a nation- no, I am not kidding.) were out of the main articulate of the Statute and the taxes would not have a federal structure (and they would only become federal if their nemesis the CIU would regain power) they could not vote for the Statute...so they decided to propose the people of catalonia, well his supporters, to abstain (or null vote) in the future referendum. In this way, the Catalan government would keep his face and ERC would decide what to do in Madrid supporting Zapatero (or not) on a daily basis. CIU on its way could attack the catalan government for not having one voice...so everything had a kind of balance and (dis/un/in)equilibrium: everybody expected the referendum and then two more years of left-wing government...a little bit tricky and precarious but sort of Ok... until...
..things got worse....ERC last week changed his opinion, broke all his promises (promises done to Maragall and Zapatero) and they decided to support a NO vote in the referendum...It was the end.
ERC is not a normal party.. it must do as the "raw" supporters tell them in regional associations across Catalonia (it is called "partido asambleario".. I doubt something similar exist in Europe nowadays)...so they listened to the "militants" as the card party members ar called. All of them were for a big NO...exactly for the same reasons described by leader of ERC tos upport a null vote: it was a very bad and completely mutilated Statute. "You really think that way..so vote NO!!". And the leader of ERC (named Carod-Rovira) did not resign nor tried to convince anybody...nup, they broke the promise.
And yesterday Maragall dismissed ERC from government duties...now a minority government is in place.. supported until the referendum by CIU in the Catalan Parlament...with a referendum next month about the most important law for Catalonia in decades. And of course, with elections just behind.
If the Catalan Statute is approved everybody loses except for PM Zapatero (and somehow CIU leader).. if it is rejected..everybody loses except for the right-wing PP and his neocon supporters. Surprisingly enough(does it ring a bell to anybody?) a left-wing separatist party has given PP a powerful weapon when the neocons were almost K.O. in the corner...
Catalonia in disarray.