With just a few days left until the 21 December election, the big question is whether the results will allow us to take a step forward or sink us even deeper in a morass of political and judicial uncertainty and unpredictability. We are immersed in a highly charged atmosphere which we don’t know for sure if we’ll be able to diffuse. On one hand the political parties act by entrenching themselves in their positions, while on the other they struggle for survival. We are all awaiting an electoral miracle to usher in a new era, but the behaviour of the electorate is hard to predict at this difficult time and the opinion polls suggest multiple ties and difficulties in forming a government. Paradoxically, in the midst of the noise surrounding the campaign, many of the truly important questions that could help voters to make useful decisions about the country’s future are greeted with nothing but silence. Appeals are made on all sides to an emotional vote, while there is a lack of answers from the two ideological blocs, though it must be noted that they are not equally responsible for the current situation. The unionist bloc maintains a disturbing silence on the lifting of Article 155, meaning it remains unclear whether it will accept the democratic result and guarantee the lifting of the measures that have stripped the Catalan government of its financial autonomy, relegating it to a purely administrative role. The atmosphere is highly charged, and it is disturbing that the PP congratulates itself on the supposed merit of decapitating the independence movement by putting it in jail and thus perverting the separation of powers that little bit more. The truth is that delaying the release of the political prisoners until after 21-D is unjust, democratically unfortunate and it affects the right to equality during the campaign. Could one imagine four politicians remanded without bail for their ideas anywhere else in the eurozone? Yet there they remain.
Success for Ciudadanos?
The splintering of the pro-independence bloc may well favour Ciudadanos’ electoral victory. In spite of the PP’s efforts, Ciudadanos is the big surprise for unionism since it has brought together the vote and the perception of stability which a part of society associates with Article 155. This laboratory experiment, born fourteen years ago as a reaction to traditional Pujol-led nationalism, has gained strength by opposing Catalanism and the use of Catalan. Financially it is powered by the Ibex-35, while it finds support in the media from the pro-Aznar right that opposes Rajoy. The PP’s traditional political intransigence has led to its current irrelevance in Catalonia, thus boosting Ciudadanos’ fortunes. With no new proposals or reflections on all sides, it will be very difficult to initiate a new era that puts an end to the current stalemate.
The goal of the two blocs is to win, now more than ever, with their manifesto being less relevant than in the past. It is a matter of sheer survival. In the case of the pro-independence parties, their platform is suffering from the shock of 27 October, the vacuum of the following days and the judicial manoeuvres that culminated in half of the Catalan government in Belgium and the other half in jail. The pro-independence bloc is essentially relying on a positive response from the thousands of people in Catalonia who are strongly involved in the process and who are waiting for the release and the return of their political representatives. It trusts the citizens who bought, paid for and carried the ballot boxes to the polling stations, who went to the polls and now replace the yellow ribbons the Mossos waste their time asking them to remove with a paper upon which is written that it had a yellow ribbon on it. These are the same people who have triggered a crisis within the Spanish political system, to the astonishment and disbelief of much of those involved in ‘old politics’.
The atmosphere in recent days is what one might describe with the cliché ‘calm but tense’. The lack of a willingness to hold dialogue remains apparent and some slates are populated with zombie candidates. All of the participants need to rethink their positions if they truly wish to find a stable solution to the current conflict. The Spanish political system is unaware that it is witnessing the end of a regime. It may happen sooner or later, but the ‘old politics’ was also unable to see the changes that overtook it in the 1930s. They were zombie politicians and they were unwilling to accept that society had changed.
The 21-D altarpiece
We have dedicated today’s front page to the Central Electoral Board and to all the journalists, cartoonists, comedians, artists and colleagues of the CCMA [the Catalan Public Broadcasting Corporation] who have been put under the microscope. In such a highly charged, unfair atmosphere, we underline the need for free speech and journalistic professionalism. In such difficult times, we will continue to inform and to laugh about politics, ourselves and those who are so convinced they have a direct line to the absolute truth. In the absence of a joint photograph of the candidates, with Carles Puigdemont in Belgium, Oriol Junqueras imprisoned, Jordi Cuixart also behind bars and Jordi Sànchez punished for addressing his supporters in a meeting from his cell, we have chosen to entrust the work to the great Fontdevila. He has drawn an altarpiece with the protagonists of the most unusual and unjust elections since the restoration of democracy.