The 75% consensus that the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, is asking Catalan society for this week already exists. The alleged division is non-existent: the public wish to democratically settle their legitimate differences at the ballot box. They want politicians to do their jobs; while rejecting the judicialization of politics. The opinion poll published in today’s ARA is clear on this matter: 80.4% of Catalans are in favour of a referendum agreed with Spain as a way out of a situation that has led to exile and prison for politicians and pro-independence Catalan grassroots leaders. In fact, there is also a broad consensus about the injustice implied by the latter: 78.1% of Catalans are against detention without bail and 77.5% believe that the charges of violent uprising are unfounded.
Specifically, Pedro Sánchez has called for Catalonia’s social consensus to be translated into agreements in the Catalan Parliament, in Barcelona’s Parc de la Ciutadella. If he is sincere in his proposal, he ought to take the initiative by having the PSC ensure the Catalan chamber is able to respond to this social majority. Such a move would not prove too difficult since, in fact, contrary to what their leaders say a majority of the PSC’s voters favour a negotiated referendum: 71% of those who voted socialist in the last election in Catalonia support the idea. And if we look at those who oppose independence, 61% would agree to a mutually-agreed referendum. Where does the problem lie, then? Who refuses to reach an agreement? Who is afraid of the ballot box? It is hard not to believe that all this talk of a split in Catalan society is politically motivated, out of a desire to cause a rupture, in the hope of hiding the real consensus surrounding a referendum.
The Spanish president is due to hold a cabinet meeting in Barcelona this Friday, coinciding with the anniversary of the 21 December election. If it turns out to be nothing more than an empty gesture, it will result in a new missed opportunity to understand the hopes of Catalan society. The independence movement, with prisoners on hunger strike, will take to the streets to make itself heard, while the government of Catalonia ought to agree to a meeting between the Catalan president and the Spanish PM. It would be a positive step if a meeting were to take place and if it were used to initiate genuine political negotiations that respond to Catalan society’s desire to be understood, with a negotiated referendum as a future goal, since even among those who favour independence, unilateralism is only supported by a minority of 38.4%. It would also be helpful if the protests by those in favour of independence prove to be as respectful as they are determined. Catalan society is stubbornly civic-minded and in favour of peaceful coexistence, this is its strength. This is also reflected in its majority, wide-ranging support for an agreed referendum.