Foreign Policy Blogs

Sunday Bland Sunday in Catalonia

by Meritxell Ramírez-Olle

This Sunday, November 28, voters in Catalonia go to the polls. Catalonia (El Principat de Catalunya) is one of the Spain’s 17 autonomous communities with a population of 7.5 million people whose capital is Barcelona. Catalan, spoken by more than 9 million people, is the national language and has, since 2006, been granted its own Internet domain, the ‘.cat’. As one of Spain’s wealthiest regions, Catalonia’s taxpayers contribute the equivalent of 10 percent of the GDP to support poorer Spanish regions through taxes collected by the central government in Madrid. The new economic geography of the world, as University of Barcelona economist Ramon Tremosa argues, offers Catalonia promising economic opportunities in the future. As polls indicate, more than 50 percent of Catalans hope that this future will include more autonomy and even independence.

Sunday Bland Sunday in CataloniaThe most recent opinion polls suggest that the current Socialist-led coalition with the Green party and the Republican and Secessionist Left Party (ERC) will fall in favour of the Catalan-Liberal nationalist party, Convergència-i-Unió. The political campaign has been full of frivolous and distracting political advertising such as the Socialist Party’s video in which a woman simulates an orgasm while casting her vote and the Popular Party’s (the main Catalan and Spanish conservative party) video game that invited players to bomb illegal immigrants and supporters of Catalonia’s secession. With such a low level of political discourse, nobody should be surprised if this Sunday’s elections result in a low turnout. After all, if politicians don’t take the voters seriously, the voters won’t bother with them either.

All of this, however, should not be mistakenly taken as a sign that that Catalans are not engaged in politics. In fact, some surprising examples point to the contrary. Last July, more than a million people took to the streets of Barcelona to call for greater autonomy for Catalonia and over the course of last year almost 170 Catalan towns and villages have held non-binding ballots on Catalonia’s independence from Spain, staffed by thousands of volunteers.

Unfortunately, the political campaign that the politicians have offered us doesn’t match up to our demands for serious discussion on how to overcome the two main challenges that Catalonia faces right now: economic recovery—the unemployment rate soars around 17 percent—and its political and territorial fit within Spain. Let us hope that next 2014 Catalan elections will bring us more political dignity and lucidity than what this Sunday bland Sunday of elections will offer.

Meritxell Ramírez-Olle is a science, technology and innovation Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh. She is the editor of the politics section of the Catalan language Web site Vacarisses Digital.