Monday, October 02, 2017

Catalans overwhelmingly choose independence

90% after an amazing sequence of Madrid's own goals

The result of the referendum has been announced. Some 2.26 million ballots were counted (42% turnout, out of 5.34 million registered voters). 1% was rendered invalid. Out of the valid ones, 90% voted "Yes" (independence), 8% voted "No", and 2% were "blank".

Calella, Costa Brava, Catalonia

On top of these 2.26 million ballots, about 0.7 million is estimated to have been stolen by Madrid's law enforcement forces: 2.96 million ballots would be some 55% of 5.34 million registered voters so the turnout with the stolen ballots included would be around 55% – which is not bad given the fear and risks, rain, and long queues (because of disabled Internet, need to do things manually and to pick another polling station instead of the closed one etc.).

The support for the independence has increased from the informal 2014 referendum. Three years ago, the turnout was "also" about 40% and 90% wanted a "statehood" for Catalonia. But only 80% inside this 90% meant a "statehood outside Spain", the other wanted a "statehood within Spain". Now, the result is 90% for a state outside Spain.

I didn't have any doubts whatsoever that the "Yes", secessionist side would win and that expectation was right. However, there were methods for Madrid to co-engineer a vastly different result that could have been spun as a reason not to dissolve Spain as we have known it for some time.

First of all, the violence – but even some harsh measures before the referendum – have increased the turnout as well as the percentage of the "Yes" side. Many former moderates – and perhaps even supporters of the Spanish union – must have figured out that Spain in its current form isn't a safe country to happily live in. The violence and other things were unquestionably an own goal, especially because it had no chance to "disable" a majority of the polling stations. I was sure about that fact as well and indeed, most polling stations just completed their job. The tough approach of the Civil Guard created terrifying pictures but from the viewpoint of the number of votes, these cops were just irrelevant isolated thugs and vandals. I am not sure whether Spain without Catalonia will have the money to "proportionately" reward them for their hard, embarrassing, and dirty work.

It was far from the only own goal that Madrid has scored.

The intense focus on the meme that "the referendum is illegal" may have repelled the "No", pro-union voters. Yesterday, the folks were deciding about the status of Catalonia, a rather important question, and at some moment, the politicians in Madrid should have figured out that their expectations that they could totally disrupt the referendum were wrong. So they should have encouraged their "No" voters to maximally vote – and perhaps even repeatedly vote (that recommendation would have to be communicated secretly, of course). In fact, if you think about it, those 150,000 voters who voted "No" were particularly brave. They went through the risk of being crippled by the Spanish Civil Guard just in order to confirm that they agree with the Civil Guard! ;-)

Because of this "legal vs illegal" dichotomy and its obvious correlation with "Yes" and "No", it was overwhelmingly the "Yes" people who came to vote which has increased the percentage of "Yes" further. Another big mistake of Madrid's.

Now, was the confiscation of the ballots a good idea for Madrid? No, it was another own goal. Now, the number of confiscated ballots may be happily "estimated" by the Catalan government. Even if the stolen ballots were all "No", the numbers would still mean a clear "Yes" victory. But one can be creative while counting stolen ballots. The number could have been much smaller than 700,000. In that case, the turnout could have been below 50% and therefore a good tool to question the claim that the voters were representative. And much less likely, the number of stolen ballots could have been over 2 million. In that case, there would have been a possibility – not a real one but a theoretical one – that these ballots were almost entirely "No" and the result of the referendum could have been "No". This could have been used as a method to say that the "result of the referendum isn't clear" (it would still be a speculation that builds three unlikely IFs on top of each other but at least something). With the stolen number estimated as 700,000, Catalonia may claim that the total turnout exceeded 50%, the "Yes" side got a big majority regardless of the stolen ballots, and everything seems like a win-win situation.

Was it a good idea for Madrid to shut down the census websites etc. that were used to prevent double or multiple voting? I don't think so. It clearly looks like another own goal to me.

Did the shutdown increase the number of double or multiple votes substantially? I doubt it. I think that in the first hours, they could catch the people who try to vote several times. And because of the inertia and uncertainty about the information sharing between the polling stations, the attempts to vote multiply times haven't increased dramatically during the day. But again, it's possible that the multiple votes have been there and increased the mostly "Yes" turnout further, perhaps by a few percent. (I think that only a small minority has voted multiply times but my guess is that the record holders voted at least 4 times – that's based on my efforts to get little Smurfs from Lidl supermarkets LOL.) But no one really asks about the double votes. They existed but they weren't the organizers' fault. They were clearly the Madrid authorities' fault and it's natural to assume that the shutdown of the census website was done to damage a referendum whose result Madrid knew to be very inconvenient.

Everything that Madrid has done seems to have been stupid – all these acts have apparently reduced the probability that Spain will be able to keep its control over Catalonia. Why did they do all these unnecessary or self-harming things? Are they really so stupid?

Well, I think that they are. Their political IQ is the IQ of a pumpkin (Czech "IQ tykve" rhymes better). But it's not a "pure stupidity", one that people get from Mother Nature in its idealized form. The Spanish political stupidity is powered by the Spaniards' unstoppable desire to dominate and be seen as the bosses; and by their complete lack of experience with being the oppressed ones. Because Spain has basically never "belonged under anyone else", not even during the Second World War, they may completely lack any empathy. They may be completely unable to make any sensible predictions about "how the smaller, in this case Catalan, nationality will react to certain steps".

After I have listened to some Spanish officials' speeches and Spanish commenters' comments that were apparently denying all of reality and every single aspect of it, I feel that they were genuinely unable to figure out that millions of Catalans would get upset because of the harsh moves by the central government. Maybe they aren't able to separate their wishful thinking from the almost guaranteed outcomes that could have been determined if the brain were allowed as a helpful tool. At any rate, Spaniards seem to be a nation of violent morons now.

OK, I expect the Catalan government to declare the independence in coming days. Catalans have already "won the rights" for it, as their local government puts it. However, here we could expect some nuances. I can imagine that the Catalan representatives are much cleverer and more creative. They could surprisingly stop short of demanding the full independence and convert their victory from recent days to some more comfortable form of semi-independence, e.g. one that would separate them fiscally but keep them politically within Spain in some way. It could be viewed as a betrayal by many Catalans – who would have to be afraid of Madrid's repeated interventions in the future – but it could have some other advantages.

Just to be sure, the most likely scenario remains the declaration of the full independence of the Catalan Republic by the Catalan Parliament (which will receive a proposal from the Catalan government) by Tuesday evening, probably earlier than that. Despite the stolen ballots and possible multiple votes and other things that could have pushed the referendum result in either direction, I think that the political will is clear, the turnout was sufficient, the absolute number of "Yes" votes was close to 50% of the whole electorate, not just those who participated, and too many Catalans feel too strongly about the independence now.

Based on the experience in recent days and weeks, I suspect that Madrid will keep on denying the new reality and the situation will increasingly resemble the situation in Crimea – the optimistic example for Catalonia – or the situation in Eastern Ukraine – the less optimistic analogy for Catalonia. Sadly, it's possible that Madrid will try to use even tougher violence than it did yesterday to enforce its laws. Just days ago, I thought that Spaniards were really a "different level" than some fascist groups from Ukraine but I no longer think so. The EU membership doesn't really mean anything and the thinking of these nations outside the "civilized core of Europe" is very similar, after all.

Some politicians and other people have reacted. In Czechia, ex-president Klaus and collaborators denounced it and I have seen the name of some ten more politicians from many parties who denounced the attitude of Madrid, too. Still, it looks like a minority of politicians to me and the same is true for the European Union and for the world.

When this silence is compared with many other cases in which governments are criticized for suppressing the human rights, we see an incredible hypocrisy, amazing double standards. I think that neither Poland nor Hungary have done more than 10% to suppress the basic civic rights of their populations – but they have been exposed to a vastly stronger harassment by the European Union that the Spanish government so far.

Or compare the Catalan situation with other separatist movements. Certain people have chosen Kosovo as the key example of a region that had all the rights to secede from Serbia. Well, these people just hate Serbia. In reality, Kosovo is the cradle of the Serbian statehood and the "nation" of Kosovo is a bunch of terrorists, drug traffickers, human flesh smugglers, and other organized criminals almost all of whom should spend their life in prison. But for some reason, the independence of this land completely stolen by criminals is OK while the independence of the Catalan nation that has peacefully lived there for centuries is neutral or wrong. Or replace Kosovo with some of the regions that were seceding from Russia. The double standards are shocking.

Again, the comparison of the Catalan voters and the illegal Muslim migrants is equally striking. Lots of multicultural people have been telling us that it was "clearly impossible" to deal with the "refugees" using violence, like guns with rubber projectiles, when they were invading Europe. We're civilized countries so we can't use any such tools against such invaders, right? Even the Spanish government itself has basically made similar claims when it contributed to the inflow of the illegals to our continent. But it turns out that rubber projectiles are just fine against millions of own citizens who just came to express the view about the identity and future of their nationality – if I use the language that is fully compatible with all the Spanish laws. It's very clear that someone is abusing his power as he basically supports true and truly dangerous criminals but terrorizes completely innocent citizens.

At any rate, I hope that some reasonable people exist in some other countries. If Madrid's attitude escalated further and suggested a looming genocide, the U.N. should try to send some peacekeepers over there. Catalonia clearly cannot reunite with Spain according to the rules that would be dictated from Madrid.

The European Union will be pissing on its basic laws if it doesn't start the proceedings against Spain now, according to Articles 2 and 7 of the EU treaty, but I won't be surprised if it doesn't at all because there are virtually no decent people at the top of the European Union. I think that the Catalan-Spanish tension is uncorrelated to the EU – so the EU really doesn't care whether Catalans or Spaniards are winning. But what I see behind the EU silence is that many people in the EU would love to use similar tools by Madrid. They are inspired them and they may even be planning to use it against the opposition in other European countries. That's why they won't criticize Madrid! On the other hand, I think that Catalans simply must find an ally with a sufficient brute force (Britain?) because they may be facing the brute force of their larger neighbor, Spain, now. If they don't find such a credible force, they may be in trouble.

I no longer try to speak to the Spaniards because the recent days have convinced me that they're not the adults in the room. Almost all of them react in ways that I consider absolutely insane. The Spanish PM repeats that there has been no referendum, the vice-president Ms de Santamaría said that the cops' performance was spectacularly professional and proportionate, and lots of Spaniards we were honored to interact with told us that there doesn't even exist any Catalan nation. It's still just a province in Spain that wants to belong to Spain, with several extremist exceptions. ;-) So it's the Catalans who must grab the steering wheel but as I said, they need some brute force to have an actual chance to fix the problem – and the Spaniards belong to the problem. The obviously non-violent character of the Catalan pro-referendum and/or pro-independence movement may be touching and people may praise it but too much of this non-violence is usually suicidal.

At any rate, this is not a time for pessimism. Congratulations to the Catalan nation and good luck with its next moves that are bound to be harder than in many other places.

A funny musical addition. Some of the usual Russophobic loons have said that Russia and Putin are behind the Catalan independence movement, too. Millions of Russian little green men pretend to be a new nation, Catalans, in Spain. Great, almost no insanity can already surprise me. Amusingly, I found the pro-Madrid demonstrators who sing... Kalinka, a famous Russian wartime song, with "Yo soy español, español, español" ("I am Spanish") instead of "Kalinka". For a while, I thought that the similarity of the music is a coincidence. But it's not an accident, search for "yo soy" at the Spanish Kalinka Wikipedia page. The song was taken by Spanish soccer fans in 2008 after Spain defeated Russia in the Euro Cup (a 2008 fan video).

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