The observer

The "annoyance"

When you poll the Catalan public opinion, the message is clear. A vast majority of society wants to voice its opinion on independence

It is a shame to bother the Spanish Vice-President, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, considering how busy she is. In an interview this week, visibly irritated, she described Catalonia’s demand for a referendum as an "annoyance", and urged a change in the debate by saying "that's enough of this mess". Everyone understood that she was referring either to the independence movement or the desire to hold a referendum. It is a shame to inject a little reality and interrupt people who are so comfortable with their own truth. But Catalans want a referendum and are eager to participate in it. It is as simple --and as complicated-- as that.

When you poll the Catalan public opinion, the message is clear. A vast majority of society wants to voice its opinion on independence.

Today ARA is publishing an opinion poll that was conducted between Monday and Wednesday last week, only three days after the Catalan government's announcement of the date (October 1) and the question for the referendum. Without taking into account what their answer to the question would be, 68.5% of respondents support being able to resolve the matter at the polls. The intention to vote is more than 90% among supporters of independence, and is higher than 55% among supporters of En Comú and 45% among PSC supporters (more than 70% and 50% if you include those who "will possibly vote"). The figures for supporters of En Comú explain well the tension within the party, which is debating whether to support the call to vote and their perception of the difficulties of doing so with guarantees. But it would be difficult for its leaders to ignore the determination to vote among the majority of its followers. Among En Comú voters who intend to vote, 43% would be in favor of a "Yes" vote and 35% against, according to the survey.

The poll is clear on the people's desire to be heard and indicates a victory for "Yes" of 42.3% in favor vs 38.9% against in response to the announced question. You could say that the credibility of the call for a referendum is clear and that the current trend, after the government's decision to announce the date and question, puts a "Yes" vote in the lead. It is a slim advantage at the beginning of the campaign leading up to 1 October, during which there could be more developments that might affect public opinion.

Years of debate over the issue have created a feeling of determination. Some 33.2% say that they will vote “no matter what", 19% will do so "to make their voices heard, and 15.7% will not vote "in any case". The key to bringing supporters of a "No" vote to the polls, a determining factor for the credibility of the referendum, would be an agreement with the Spanish government, but Catalans are not fooling themselves about the possibility of negotiation. Some 58% believe that the situation should be resolved "politically", despite the fact that many people (42%) are convinced that the Spanish government will never negotiate an agreement.

Public opinion is clear on the difficulties of negotiating with the Spanish government and also about the Catalan government's determination to hold the referendum, with or without an agreement. Strong opposition to a referendum is at less than 20%. A mere 16% are in favor of blocking it from being held at any rate, and only 18% believe that judges should stop the self-determination process. Some 77% reject the possibility that police could be sent to confiscate ballot boxes and close polling stations.

The overall interpretation of the survey that we are publishing today and tomorrow leads us to deduce that Catalans want a referendum, in which "Yes" would now win by a slim margin, and that the people are not willing to accept harsh coercive measures towards either political leaders or volunteers or for the referendum to be blocked. The prevailing sentiments are a desire to vote and also a rejection of reprisals against those driving the independence process forward. The capacity to rally and mobilize is another of the interesting unknowns that we will be revealing.

During the comments by the Spanish Vice-President on "the annoyance", she also complained that Catalan politics are focused on the independence process while the Spanish government is solving the problems of public administration. This is key to the Spanish government's narrative that aims to prepare for an eventual takeover in Catalonia. They forget, with an intolerable disdain, that both the regional governments and the independent supervisory body (AIREF) say that Spain’s regions are responsible for meeting deficit targets while the Spanish government has fallen short of the mark.

The strategy also extends to disconnecting the Catalan police force from accessing information sources at European level and preventing it from expanding its numbers. It looks as if they are laying the ground for a takeover of regional powers by Madrid. The Partido Popular administration has many diplomatic, coercive, and financial tools, but the dignity of the people when they say "enough" to a situation that they consider unjust is also a powerful driving force. The PP's recklessness and their inability to manage the Catalan issue will go down in history.

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