12 de desembre del 2013

La consulta de Catalunya al Wall Street Journal, avui 12.12.2013

Portada del Wall Street Journal el 13.12.2013  Imatge de naciodigital.cat

Catalonia Sets Nov. 9 as Date for Independence Referendum

Direct Challenge to Spain's Central Government

  Notícia de la consulta catalana al Wall Street Journal
December 12, 2013 4:02 PM
MADRID—Political leaders in Spain's wealthy Catalonia region have set a date for a referendum on declaring independence, but the Spanish prime minister flatly stated such a vote was unconstitutional and wouldn't be permitted.

The preparation for a secession vote in Catalonia, which has long chafed under what it calls economic and cultural dominance from Madrid, sets Spain's leading industrial region on a collision course with the central government. The stakes for both sides are enormous and the outcome hard to predict.

Catalan regional leader Artur Mas said Thursday that the region's major political parties had agreed on wording of a two-part question to be put on a ballot Nov. 9, 2014.
The first part is: "Do you want Catalonia to be a State?" The second part is: "Do you want Catalonia to be an independent State?"
Mr. Mas, who had pledged to hold a referendum after elections last year, said the question was "inclusive, and at the same time, clear and concrete." He added that there would be more details in coming days on how the vote would be conducted.
But at his own news conference, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said unequivocally he wouldn't stand for such a vote. "It is unconstitutional and it isn't going to be held," he said, calling it "beyond all discussion and all negotiation."
He didn't answer follow-up questions on how he aimed to thwart the Catalan bid, but analysts said the national government would almost certainly sue to block the vote in Spain's constitutional court.
Strains have long existed between Madrid and Catalonia, which has a distinctive language and culture, but the economic crisis that has battered Spain since 2008 has raised the tensions to a boiling point.

Catalans complain that the central government drains the region of resources to support the rest of the country while returning little in investment. Some 43 cents of every euro Catalonia pays in taxes doesn't come home, according to data compiled by the Catalonia government.
National government officials say they have aided Catalonia in matters such as a huge bailout of a regional bank, and that many of Catalonia's problems are a consequence of local mismanagement.
Nevertheless, Catalonia's discontent has given rise to massive pro-independence demonstrations in recent years. This past Sept 11, a regional holiday, more than 1 million independence activists formed a 250-mile human chain running the length of the region.
Recent polls indicate that around 80% of Catalonia's 7.5 million people favor a referendum. Some polls show a much narrower majority favoring independence, though how the question is phrased has an important bearing on the result.
Some legal analysts said that the central government would have a strong case in suing to block the referendum. "Under the constitution, it is clear that only the central government can call a referendum," said Fernando Simón Yarza, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Navarra.
Nevertheless, simply dismissing the referendum-backers out of hand bears risks for Mr. Rajoy. "There is wide social support for this proposal," said Joan Botella, a political scientist the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
He still bets the vote won't come off, but called it is "a very complicated" situation for the national government.
The Catalan challenge comes at a time when Mr. Rajoy is trying to build on some modest improvement in the long sickly Spanish economy.
Spain recently exited a nine-quarter recession. The stock market has surged and investors such as Bill Gates and Carlos Slim have recently placed bets on Spain. A secession crisis involving a region known as "the factory of Spain" could quickly curb that positive momentum, analysts say.
Mr. Rajoy lashed out at "initiatives that fracture society, encourage divisions and generate uncertainty among the citizenry in time when there is a need for certainty."
The Catalan activists face challenges of their own. The bifurcated referendum ballot reflects divisions within Mr. Mas's ideologically diverse coalition about how far to push the independence issue.
Some coalition members advocated "a third way"—the adoption of a federalist system conferring greater powers on the regional government, but keeping Catalonia within Spain.
The ballot has been designed to give a nod to such federalists, who could conceivably vote "yes" on the first question about Catalonia becoming a state, and "no" on the second, about it becoming an independent state.
Some more ardent independence activists were disappointed that Mr. Mas didn't come up with a simple yes or no question. "I wanted something explicit that would force the federalists make a choice," said Elisenda Paluzie i Hernández, an independence supporter who is dean of economics at the University of Barcelona.
Nevertheless she says she understands the political constraints, and feels the independence option will gain backing from Catalans whose experience has made them deeply distrustful of Madrid.
Many Catalans are still embittered by a move by a Spanish court in 2010 to strike down key parts of a painstakingly negotiated statute that would have granted more autonomy to Catalonia.
Write to Matt Moffett at matthew.moffett@wsj.com