THE OBSERVER

Managing uncertainty

We are heading towards the conflict becoming chronic, which is not the worst scenario

The saying that tough times make tough people gets repeated like a mantra by those who are closely and uneasily following the current goings on and who have a chance to speak to some of the main protagonists in private. Soon Catalonia will once again face days filled with tension when the court issues its ruling, which will test the strength of the independence movement, peaceful coexistence, leadership in Catalonia and Spain, and the maturity of the political system as a whole. The tension will put a strain on the joints in our collective democratic apparatus thanks to the highly likely mass show of indignation which the state chooses to interpret as an attack rather than the expression of a fundamental political right. Everyone will have to face up to their responsibilities and their own abilities and it won’t be an easy time. Emotions will once again run high, taking a hold on the country, something which does not bode well for politics in the long-term.

Civil society associations, political parties and government institutions will call on the public to protest. Although sources close to the Catalan and Spanish security forces speak of society "cooling off", they are well aware that thousands of people will respond to the call for solidarity with the prisoners. It will be an ordeal by fire for the Mossos d’Esquadra [the Catalan police], who say "they will uphold the law and defend Catalonia, while defending the force from all attempts at political interference". After 1-O and Major Trapero’s statement in court, it is said that the Mossos "have learnt their lesson" and that they continue to be aware that the threat of a takeover by the Spanish government still looms large over them. Several sources claim that the Interior Minister "crossed the Rubicon" last December when he defended the Mossos’ actions and thus contradicted President Torra, who in a statement made in Slovenia, called for "immediate changes" and criticised an operation against the CDRs, which the Catalan police thought was "flawless".

The latest reshuffle at Catalonia’s Ministry of the Interior is the result of the high levels of internal friction, the difficulty of guaranteeing rights and freedoms without threatening the Catalan government’s powers and the political balancing act with President Torra and his discourse.
In the current climate, leadership in Catalonia is fractured and weakened. In addition, a PSOE government plans to avoid any actions which might unite the pro-independence camps, as was the case with the repression resulting from 1-O [the 2017 independence vote]. As a result, the Mossos will be at the forefront of any plans to control the situation and will be responsible for security in Catalonia. No one expects any acts of violence, but neither can we rule out the possibility of provocation, sabotage as part of a false flag operation, or the risk associated with blindly relying on the good behaviour of millions of individuals.

Civil society and political leaders admit that they will need to manage the uncertainty of the response to the verdict. The strength of the public’s reaction will determine whether this episode will further fuel the independence process. No one believes the ruling will be some form of a conclusion. Instead it will signal the start of a new chapter, requiring all the participants to ready themselves by reordering their ranks. We are heading towards the conflict becoming chronic, which is not the worst scenario.

The new leaders of the political parties and civil society organisations rely on the public for a show of strength. One which doesn’t get out of hand, but which is so overwhelming that it forces the state to engage in a dialogue. The difficulties are as clear as the dangers. The electoral landscape in Spain [ahead of the November polls] hints at either a coalition government between the PSOE and Ciudadanos or Pedro Sánchez taking office with the PP’s acquiescence. Galician president Núñez Feijóo (PP) was the first to put forward the idea, subsequently joined by Felipe González and Mariano Rajoy, who are openly backing a broad coalition that adopts the great pacts of state, which in Catalonia’s case means turning it into a province.

The anonymity of the Democratic Tsunami [an initiative which originated from civil society organisations with the complicity of all the pro-independence parties] and the permeability of the CDRs —due to their highly open— nature leaves the moral leadership, one which is capable of trying to influence what goes on in the street, in the hands of those behind bars.

Following the verdict, the question is what sort of response President Torra will be looking for. When he took office, he stated that there was a risk of becoming trapped by symbols. We can expect marches and demonstrations, while work is being carried out on a majority, cross-party institutional response to the repression. With the ruling, the future of those who stood trial will be decided and the state’s strategy with regard to those in exile will also be made clear. According to one of the political prisoners: "Exile is worse than jail because there’s no release date". Everyone is taking it for granted that following the ruling, another attempt will be made to have Carles Puigdemont extradited.

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