Pablo Casado, the PP’s candidate for prime minister in the upcoming Spanish general election, continues to reveal details of his plans for Catalonia. Not surprisingly, these are all similar in their intent; in other words, they are aimed at trimming, eroding and diluting self-government. His two most recent proposals, moreover, are somewhat degrading. The first is to make the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, subservient to the Spanish National Police and Guardia Civil. According to the proposal, the Catalan police would be reduced to a mere auxiliary force reporting to the security forces of the state, lacking in autonomy and permanently subject to supervision.
The second, even more serious proposal, is to allow the Delegation of the Spanish government to suspend the Catalan government’s powers at its own discretion, whenever it detects "a lack of loyalty". Aside from being an initiative which is unlikely to adhere to the Constitution, it is clear that Casado and indeed all three of the trio of right-wing parties are already exploring ways to slip article 155* in via the back door without it being put to a vote in the Senate, which may well have a left-wing majority after the polls.
The message is clear: vote for me because I will find the way to suspend Catalonia’s home rule whenever I want via the executive, even if the PSOE blocks article 155 in the Senate. In reality, it is a means to establish emergency rule in Catalonia until its government is of the political complexion which Casado and his partners wish to see. At least Vox speaks its mind and openly declares that all autonomous governments ought to be scrapped and that there ought to be only one Parliament and one government for the whole of Spain. If the Partido Popular’s leader wishes to go down this path, he ought to propose changes to the Constitution, since the regions’ right to autonomy is enshrined within it.
Casados' problem is that he is not making these proposals with Catalonia and the welfare and concord of the Catalans in mind, but instead with the intention of wooing voters in the rest of Spain by appealing to their thirst for revenge due to their wounded pride. This also explains why his choice to head the PP’s Barcelona slate is not a candidate from the Catalan PP but instead someone like Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, who has been parachuted directly in from Aznar's FAES [Fundación para el Análisis y los Estudios Sociales or "Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies", a right-wing think tank with strong ties to the PP]. What must the dozens of local activists who have spent years toiling away in a territory which is difficult for the PP think about Casado’s unilateral decision? Are any of them thinking of raising their voices or asking the PP’s headquarters in Madrid for some respect?
The PP and Ciudadanos are keen to make Catalonia take centre stage in the public debate in Spain, as if there were no other issues worthy of interest which directly affect the Spaniards’ lives. Without Catalonia, they would effectively have nothing to say or have any means to spearhead their campaign. Nevertheless, when it comes to winning an election, not anything goes. The right has been devoted to disturbing coexistence and stirring up hatred against the Catalans for many years (by starting a petition against the Catalan Statute, organising campaigns opposing language immersion and so on) in order to serve its own electoral interests. And then, when a sizeable part of Catalan society disconnects from the Spain they represent, they have but one answer: more repression and more attacks on self-government.
*Article 155 of the Constitution allows the Spanish government to take control over an autonomous government. It was triggered in Catalonia following the events of October 2017. The extent to which the state takes control, thanks to the ambiguous manner in which the article was written, is the subject of much debate.