THE OBSERVER

Does anyone know where we are?

If we focus too much on the froth of public statements and the political disorientation that some of the main front-line actors convey, we might conclude that a lack of responsible leadership is causing the country to go adrift. But the situation is far less dramatic, if you listen to public opinion. The survey that we are publishing in ARA this Sunday and Monday is a sharp snapshot of where the social majorities stand. What do most Catalans want to do and how do they want to do it, and what are the social consensuses at the end of 2018?

Viewed in perspective, the deep values have not changed so much and the majorities remain very stable. To a certain extent, one could talk of a standstill with regard to the will for independence. But one can also talk of indisputable majorities, around 80%, in matters as important as the support for a referendum that has been agreed with the State, a rejection of the preventive imprisonment of the grassroots and political representatives of the independence movement, and a rejection of direct rule (via Article 155) and the loss of legal powers in matters such as education. There are also majorities of more than 60% who criticize the operation of the basic pillars of the Spanish political system, believe that the Supreme Court does not act impartially, censure King Felipe’s actions on the Catalan question, and who would vote against the monarchy in a —highly unlikely— referendum.

As to their concerns, the top problem for the general public is the political situation, with unemployment taking second place and the economy ranking third, followed by pension guarantees.

WHERE ARE THE CATALAN POLITICIANS? ...

We know where the majorities Pedro Sánchez requests are, as if he were ignorant of them, and [socialist Catalan leader] Miquel Iceta knows them well enough to explain them to him. But where is Catalan politics? Basically, locked away in jail and in exile. The pro-sovereignty movement is atomized between decision-makers in Lledoners, Waterloo, and the Palau de la Generalitat. Communication is not easy, even though established channels —sometimes similar to those of the Cold War in being constantly watched— work more and more fluidly. But the months that have passed have not managed to patch up the relationship between the main leaderships, and internal consensus has paid a high price for the events of October one year ago. ERC remains disciplined under the orders of Junqueras, none of whose followers question his authority from within Lledoners, and the positions of Roger Torrent, President of the Parliament, and Pere Aragonès, Vice President of the Catalan Government, who maintain the main dialogue with Madrid, have been strengthened.

The strategy of JxCat is divided between the Palau, Waterloo, and Lledoners. The voices critical with the presidency of Quim Torra have become less and less concerned with anonymity; especially due to his ambiguity in defense of the CDR [Committees for the Defense of the Republic], which they consider to be insufficient and some of the president’s colleagues find excessively focused on pleasing the opposition. The management of the Mossos, from the rally of October1st until the 6th of December, has caused internal grumbling. On Monday ARA will publish a poll on intention to vote as well as the data on political popularity. The figures confirm that it is easier for the leadership at home to reach public opinion, and that those who are most established are those of political prisoners Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Sànchez.

... AND THE SPANISH?

Pedro Sánchez's strategy is hidden behind the tactics needed for daily survival and subject to internal tensions and the conflicts between party barons, who do not want to lose the regional and municipal elections in May. Much of the PSOE, which counted on the independence movement's surrender, believes that the policy of reducing tensions with Catalonia is either harming them or has not delivered the results they expected. The atmosphere in Madrid is the "Vox-ing" of Spanish politics. In the same way that Le Pen "LePen-ed" the spirit of French politics, [far-right party] Vox has begun to toss heretics and anti-patriots into the bonfire. Sánchez can choose to reinforce a unitary patriotism or to take a stand in the center, which the PP and Ciudadanos have so generously given him, and to open up a new stage in Spanish politics. It will depend on his courage.

At the eleventh hour, a meeting is being negotiated between the Catalan and Spanish presidents —and perhaps some cabinet ministers— to reduce the tension on December 21st. One would have to be very obtuse to convene a cabinet meeting in Barcelona on the one-year anniversary of the Catalan elections held under direct rule, but there is no doubt that the two governments are trying to lower the tension. The right to demonstrate is sacred. It is also equally clear that many are invoking a death in the streets, so as to use it to their nauseating advantage.

EDICIÓ PAPER 17/03/2019

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