Photographer:Fotograaf: flickr.com/Beverly Yuen Thompson
Catalan students and staff about the upcoming elections in Catalonia
After the controversial referendum, the declaration of independence, the harsh reaction from the Spanish government, and the ‘flight’ of dismissed Catalan president Puigdemont to Belgium, the Catalans will return to the polling stations on 21 December to elect new regional representatives. How are Catalan students and staff at the UM viewing all this? Are they going to vote? Are they in favour of or against independence? Observant spoke with them.
Marta Dávila Mateu (19), second-year student of Knowledge Engineering, from Sitges, near Barcelona.
“I would never say I’m from Spain. I’m from Catalonia. I’m pro-independence. It’s a feeling, I have had this nationalism inside of me since I was a child. We have our own culture, language and way of living. Spanish people are open and loud; we are more reserved, more serious and modest. We don’t love the typical Spanish bull fighting, flamenco, and siesta. Spain feels like another country, just like France or Portugal.
That’s how it all starts. When you grow up, you see the political and economic injustice. We are one of the richest regions and have to pay a lot of taxes for the benefit of other parts of Spain. But they don’t recognize us, not even the fact that we ‘re helping them.
I’m going to vote - online, I have exams on 21 and 22 December and won’t be in Catalonia - for the left-wing ERC, which is a pro-independence party and now first in the election polls. But I’m realistic; I think Spain will never allow Catalonia to be independent. Prime Minister Rajoy and his Partido Popular have scared people with their threats and tough reaction to the demonstrations and the independence declaration. Even my mum, who was always a strong supporter of independence, is now hesitating whom to vote for. She fears an outbreak of war.
I still hope that my children can say in the future: this is my country, this is where I belong.”
Aleix Nadal Campos (22), pre-master student of European Studies, from Sabadell, near Barcelona.
“I will be in Catalonia on 21 December and act as a volunteer/supervisor for the-left party ERC. In the last elections, I voted for CUP, but now I’m going to vote more strategically on the left-wing ERC. They are number one in the latest polls, second is the Ciutadans. This party is against independence, against a referendum, and in favour of a school system that’s bilingual. Now Catalan is the first language, but we all learn Spanish. Our grades in the final exams are above average! The Spanish government wants to re-centralise the education system, they are afraid that the youngsters are now indoctrinated.
I’m pro-independence because our interests aren’t represented in Spain. Many of our parties are Catalan parties and not part of the Spanish government. Besides that, I think that in an independent Catalonia, our language will survive. It is also more open for immigrants and will have, for example, a fair fiscal policy. Now sixteen billion euros per year go to Spain and nothing comes back.
I would like to be optimistic about independence, but I’m not. The leader of the ERC is in prison, he was our vice-president. The second in command said she doesn’t want any fights or victims. She is afraid of the threats of the Spanish state. That weakens our position.”
Anna Herranz Surrallés (37), assistant professor of International Relations, from Terrassa.
“I feel - talking about culture - Catalan, Spanish and European. But politically, I don’t feel represented in the Spanish political system. However, as a political scientist I try to look at the situation more from the analysis rather than feelings.
In my opinion, the political system in Spain is dysfunctional. It has not been possible to reform it in a democratic way. This was shown in 2006 with the renewal of the Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia. This Statute was, for instance, giving more autonomy to the Catalan judiciary, clearness about the distribution of competences and status of Catalan language, and better (read: fairer) tax laws. It was approved by the Spanish Parliament, the Catalan Parliament and by Catalan people in a referendum. But the Partido Popular (PP) - at that time in opposition, currently in power and led by Prime Minister Rajoy – didn’t respect the outcome of this democratic process, went to the Spanish Constitutional Court and submitted an appeal against the Statute. The Court is highly politicized and ruled in 2010 that many of the substantive articles of the Statute were not valid.
Then it all started; the independence movement gained momentum. The thought was: if Spain cannot be reformed, then it’s perhaps easier to leave. Since 2010, there have been repeatedly massive demonstrations on the streets in Catalonia. The Spanish government (Rajoy’s PP has been back in power since 2011) ignored these protests as well as all the proposals made by the Catalan government. So the independence movement grew exponentially: from 15 per cent in 2003 to 48 per cent today.
Could this have been prevented? Yes, by small gestures from the Spanish government. But the PP chose the lack of dialogue and instrumentalization of law – and since October, also police force and imprisonments. The PP represents only 8 per cent of votes in Catalan Parliament; likewise, the leading Catalan parties don’t have a say in the main decisions taken in Madrid. Hence many Catalan people don’t feel represented in Spain.
How to fix this? There should be a serious and inclusive dialogue about political and constitutional reform without taboos, including the monarchy, the territorial model, the judiciary, or the electoral law. The Statute of 2006 wasn’t ideal, but if it had been left untouched, we wouldn’t be here now.
Míriam Carrera Manzona (24), master’s student of Public Policy and Human Development, from Agramunt.
“I can’t vote, because I couldn’t go to Amsterdam to give notice that I wanted to vote in a place other than Catalonia. I was too busy. I can’t go to my home town, I have an exam on 22 December.
I don’t feel comfortable with these elections, because it’s all about one issue: independence. I want more focus on social issues. I don’t feel represented in this general environment. If I could vote, I would go for Catcomu. A party that’s neither pro- nor against independence. They want that Catalans can chose for themselves. I don’t think they will get a lot of votes, because people want to have clearness.
What I would wish, is a proper referendum about independence. The last one wasn’t a proper one. Some municipalities didn’t even have a voting centre. It was chaos.
At this moment, I would like to stay a part of Spain. But I definitely would like to change the government in Madrid. That’s the main problem, not Spain. The government is super-conservative. They don’t respect the health system or the education system for example. They were maybe okay after Franco died, but they don’t fit in our era.”