Spain needs to remember its rise from the ashes of civil war to solve Catalan crisis

Opinion piece

For a country which has risen from the ashes of civil war and earned its democracy after loss of many human lives, it seems unlikely that it would want to see another political unrest.

But what option is left with the region of Catalan after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced suspension of its home rule and declared that his cabinet would have full control of the Catalan government’s finances as well as control of the Catalan public broadcasting service including TV, radio and news agency?

The answer perhaps lies in the delicate balance of power that defines democracy from a ‘coup d’état’.

In what can be termed as destroying one of the basic principles that led to rebuilding democracy in Spain in the late 70s, the Spanish government announced this weekend that it would sack the entire Catalan government and call new regional elections within six months.

Read related story: Spain’s ultimatum expires, to trigger direct rule over Catalonia

The Spanish government now wants to replace the democratically-elected government of Catalonia with members of his own ministers. This extreme step to crush the regional independence movement comes ironically 78 years after the dictator Francisco Franco did the same. Just this time, the attempt to muzzle freedom and democracy goes a bit further.

It goes without saying that this announcement can lead to tensions and can provoke thousands of Catalan citizens to take to the streets to defend Catalonia’s home rule and institutions, just like they did after their October referendum was declared ‘illegal’ by the Spain government.

In latest development, it is learnt that Catalonia has announced today that it is confident that all its officials would defy attempts by Madrid to enforce a direct rule on the region, triggering fear of unrest among Spain’s European allies.

While Rajoy has accused Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont of “things can’t be done worse”, he is also to be blamed for this crisis. While Rajoy had promised that Catalonia would never hold an illegal referendum on independence, Puigdemont had told Catalan voters that they would.

So when 2.3m voters defied a Spanish police crackdown and voted overwhelmingly for independence, Spain had no option but to declare it illegal. What followed next was exchange of letters between the leaders giving ultimatums and avoiding solutions.

Perhaps the problem would have resolved itself much earlier had both Catalan leader and Puigdemont communicated with clarity and tried to arrive at a solution with empathy. Maybe the only thing that could have averted this situation from escalating was seeing the bigger picture — a united and a strong portrait of Spain.

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