THE OBSERVER

Regression or uncertainty

It is impossible not to see that Spain is in a crisis and facing a democratic decline

CROSSROADS. The vast majority of people called to the elections on April 28 have rarely had a political decision of such importance in their hands. With Spain going through its worst political crisis since the military coup, the scenario that emerges from this election will determine the future direction of Spain and whether the political system will move towards regression, maintain the status quo, or be able to, in the best case, evolve. Profoundly eroded by its inability to respond to the estrangement of a large part of Catalan society and having left the interpretation of the original spirit of the Constitution in the hands of judges for decades, Spanish democracy is losing public support and is moving away, perhaps definitively, from coexistence in diversity.

At this critical time, the coalition that proves capable of forming a government will set the tenor of Spain's institutional architecture. The people will decide whether to weaken democracy even further and promote homogenization by firmly establishing the regression that the right wing is proposing, or to move into the unknown. The alternative to regression is to maintain the status quo or to evolve towards an alternative project that has not yet been defined and whose foundations are yet to be laid.

In a conference on dialogue between Catalonia and Andalusia in Barcelona on Friday, law professor Bartolomé Clavero said that the Spanish Constitution needs a "procedure for negotiated agreements", and that this was already true in the 1980s when registrations of the special regime began to be dispensed with; it also created the illusion that all autonomous communities were equal so that the distinction between "nationalities and regions" and between common regime and special regime territories was no longer meaningful.

Clavero accused the PSOE of infusing Spanish society with anti-Catalan and anti-Basque attitudes, and concluded that "if the PSOE does not bring down the political ignorance embodied in anti-Catalan and anti-Basque sentiment, there will be no way out" of the current situation.

Clavero is right when he points out that the PSOE's internal tension plays a key role, as it does not allow us to know for sure what its project for the future will be; the PSOE is divided between internal reaction rooted in homogenizing populism based on grudges, and timid proposals for federalism.

BALLOT BOXES. "Taking Catalonia from pre-independence to pre-autonomy" was the fear voiced by president Puigdemont when he was debating between calling snap elections or going ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence. The wave of reactionary attitudes we are experiencing would not need Vox —nor even direct rule— to appease the voracious desire of the PP and Ciudadanos to fight against the rights of Catalonia by putting an end to the autonomy of the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan school system, and the public media. To combat this, the only tools are elections, and perseverance on the democratic path and in a real desire for dialogue.

Ballot boxes, dialogue, time, and perseverance. Most Catalans have decided that they do not want anyone to make the decision about their collective political status for them: they have expressed as much every time someone has asked them. As Javier Pérez Royo says, "if a Statute with which the Spanish state does not agree cannot be imposed in Spain, then neither can it be in Catalonia."

"Do Catalans have the right to decide their future as a nation by voting in a referendum?", asked the CEO [the Catalan government’s pollster], and the results remain the same two years later: 78.7% of the respondents are "very or quite in agreement" with the call for a consultation. Supporters of the "yes" option (48.4%) maintain the four points of advantage compared to those of the "no" (44.1%) that they had in the last survey a year ago. Independence supporters (39.7%) are still ahead of those who argue that Catalonia should be an autonomous community (26.3%) and those who believe that the best option would be a federal state (21.5%). Only 5.9% are in favor of the disappearance of home rule. The CEO also asked about the monarchy —which the CIS [the Spanish government’s pollster] does not do— and the results are important. In Catalonia 75.9% prefer a republic, while 12.3% believe that the monarchy is the best governance system.

It is impossible not to see that Spain is in a crisis and facing a democratic decline, if the forces of progress do not react. The foundations of the State are weakening and the good news is that the voices that acknowledge this are increasing, but perhaps not enough to take a step forward with courage. Meanwhile, in recent years many Catalans have abandoned the idea of reforming Spain and will not go back to it, for all the repression against Catalonia.