THE OBSERVER

Disorientation

A week of storms in a teacup, with a bitter aftertaste. A week of fireworks of indignation for having accepted the orders of the Central Electoral Board after exposing the office of the presidency of the Generalitat to a pointless disqualification, thereby weakening the dignity of the institution.

The political situation is threatening a real thunderstorm in an election campaign where the far right is setting the debate agenda in Spain, and a ruling on the political prisoners that can be foreseen in the narrative crafted by Spain’s security forces, in an apparent conspiracy with the Office of the Prosecutor. Two stories marching in step and the determination of the State to hand down a sentence that it has the strength and will to impose.

The more than understandable frustration, the fact of not wanting to yield, and pressure from the essentialists —who typically have nothing to lose— has led the president of the Generalitat to a skirmish with sterile results and the threat of an indictment for disobedience that may lead to a disqualification of between six months and two years. The fact is that, if it happens, the disqualification of the president will most likely take effect after the events that await us have turned it into a mere anecdote.

President Quim Torra publicly maintains that "there is no going back after 1-O", but the key question is whether steps will be taken beyond mere gestures, and whether citizens are being addressed from the point of view of activism, so as to maintain emotional cohesion, or from the leadership of the country’s main institution, so that society will move forward.

The rejection by many people of the State's actions denying diversity and its abuse of power has a cohesive effect on the pr-sovereignty movement, but a policy of gestures will not be enough to maintain, or even to garner, support by the people. Political gesturing could increase the general disaffection over politics and mistrust over the lack of a medium-term strategy due to the nebulous talk about the costs.

If Torra refuses to be president of all the people, including supporters of the most voted party in parliament, the independence movement will lose its cross-party, respectful, inclusive, and aspirational nature which has characterized it. If the essentialist element is fuelled, it will be impossible to have a non-nationalist sovereignty movement that is able to grow.

Comings and goings

Presidents Puigdemont and Torra have been strengthened by the preparation of the candidate lists for the general and local elections, but at the cost of weakening the Catalan government which the president assures will not be dissolved in a call for elections in the autumn. Leaving the administration is Elsa Artadi, Minister of the Presidency, whose fate in Barcelona's City Hall is uncertain, as she is polling poorly. The interpretations of her departure for City Hall are diverse and in some cases involve a reserve strategy that anticipates complicated months when it will be necessary to define an institutional strategy, at the moment unpredictable, to respond to the sentencing of the political prisoners. The movement, however, is also probably not exempt from the urgency of having a strong candidate run when the municipal elections had not been overwhelmed strategically by the general elections.

Sowing discord

In this context of resistance and gestures by a pro-sovereignty movement that is overwhelmed and emotionally conditioned by the imprisonments, one of the lowest election campaigns that Catalonia has ever experienced will begin. The contributions to petty politics are in the hands of the fierce and humiliating opposition of Ciudadanos, which has catapulted Arrimadas to Madrid, and the PP's aristocratic Álvarez de Toledo. The PP candidate is a compendium of contempt that updates Antonio Machado’s poem: “Wretched Castile, yesterday dominating / now clad in rags; she despises what she can’t understand".

Obliged to double down on the bet, immersed in a competition for the attention of a Spanish media that responds only to the loudest, the new parachute candidate is allowed insults like saying that "the [yellow] ribbons are the noose around the neck of half of the Catalans." The muse of Aznar and Casado is determined to participate in the PP’s move to abandon the political center and leave the moderate voter to the PSOE. The mentality of revenge is directed at all those who think differently and, in this case, Rajoy is perceived as a traitor to their core values. Unlikely as it may seem, Rajoy is for Casado and Álvarez de Toledo a traitor to the principles of the right that must be recovered by assimilating with Vox.
It will be a vicious campaign and after devastating Catalonia, which is only a means to an end, the candidates will have scored enough points to feed the fanaticism from within the Spanish parliament.

EDICIÓ PAPER 19/10/2019

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