Catalonia referendum-Spain hit by constitutional and political crisis

Catalonia referendum result plunges Spain into political crisis

Catalonia referendum
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Spain is facing a political and constitutional crisis after Catalans voted in favor of independence in a contested referendum that descended into chaos when police launched a widespread and violent crackdown.

  • Referendum on independence for Catalonia was recently held. Catalan government have claimed that it had earned the right to split from Spain after results showed 90% of those who voted were in favor of a split.
  • The referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and deepened a centuries-old rift between Madrid and Barcelona.
  • The ballot will have no legal status as it has been blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court

What is Catalonia?

Catalonia referendum

  • Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, situated in the country’s northeast and home to 7.5 million people.
  • Catalonia accounts for almost one-fifth of Spain’s output, and has spearheaded Spain’s economic development since the Industrial Revolution

Why does the Catalonia referendum matter?

  • Catalonia, an area in northeastern Spain, accounts for 15% of Spain’s population and 20% of its economic output. About 1.6 million people live in Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, which is a major tourist destination.
  • The latest Catalonia referendum was the region’s second referendum on independence in three years.
  • The previous ballot, a non-binding vote in November 2014, returned an 80% result in favour of an independent Catalan state. However, less than half of the 5.4 million eligible voters participated.

What are the origins of the secessionist conflict?

  • Catalonia has its own history, culture and language, as do other parts of Spain. The region’s national day, on Sept. 11, commemorates the capture of Barcelona in 1714 by the troops of King Felipe V, the first Bourbon monarch of Spain
  • In the 19th century Catalonia confirmed its position as an industrial center.
  • The region’s push for political autonomy in the 1930s was one of the reasons behind the Spanish Civil War, and the resulting dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco crushed many civil liberties, suppressing the Catalan language.
  • After Franco’s death in 1975, Spain’s return to democracy was enshrined in a new Constitution, which created a decentralized but not formally federal state.
  • In 1979 a new Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia was issued, restoring the Catalan parliament.
  • The resulting administrative structure of Spain gave Catalans a significant degree of political autonomy
  • At one point, Spain’s national lawmakers came close to appeasing Catalan’s nationalist sentiment by allowing the region special autonomy.
  • After a ruling by Spain’s constitutional court in 2010, which stated there is no legal basis for recognising Catalonia as a nation, independence appears to have taken preference over reform for a portion of the region’s population.

What powers does Catalonia already have?

  • The region, which forms one of Spain’s 17 “autonomous communities”, has its own police force and powers over affairs such as education, healthcare and welfare.
  • There are also provisions in place to protect Catalan identity, including joint language status for Catalan and Castilian

Would Catalonia prosper on its own?

  • An independent Catalonia would be a midsize European nation, with Barcelona, one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities, as its capital.
  • Much would depend on the financial and political terms under which Catalonia left, including how Spain’s debt burden would be split
  • There is the big question of whether Catalonia would be allowed to become a member state of the European Union and could continue to use the euro. (That issue is complicated by the fact that the most radical Catalan separatist party wants nothing to do with Europe’s common currency.)

♦Pradeep Gautam

Photo Credit : Commons.wikimedia.org    Labeled for reuse

Sources:
The Hindu
The New York Times
CNN

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