One strange thing about leaving Catalunya and coming to live in the UK is that suddenly Artur Mas is totally absent from the television news.
‘Who is Artur Mas’ you may ask.
He is President of the Catalan Autonomous Government.
After elections in September the result was not clear and discussions have been going on between the pro-independence parties in order to form a government and elect a new leader.
Today he has announced that he is standing down and someone else will be the main spokesperson for Catalunya. Thanks to the internet I am able to follow the fascinating twists and turns of Catalan politics and I have been watching with interest the negotiations in the last three months as they tried to find an agreement between the various parties who are pro-independence and who together won a majority in the September elections.
The election was widely seen as an opportunity for Catalan people to show their public support (or not) for the creation of an independent nation.
Perhaps they would vote to split off from Spain!
They did vote overwhelmingly for independence parties but the agreed pact for this election brought together people with very different political perspectives . Artur Mas is the leader of Convergencia which is a liberal but fairly traditional Catalan party. At the other end of the spectrum is CUP, a small left-wing party which suddenly won more seats than ever before. They want to create a more democratic system, making decisions from the ground up through a system of local assemblies.
Artur Mas wears a smart suit. David Fernandez, the leader of CUP always appears in a tee-shirt.
By a trick of fate, although they are a small party, CUP found themselves in the powerful position of being able to decide who would be the new President. Half of them wanted to support Artur Mas and half didn’t. This led to deadlock. They spent three months talking and consulting and a few days ago finally announced that they would never support Artur Mas for the top position. Some people were furiously angry that a small party would threaten the independence movement only because they refused to back the current leader. Others admired them for keeping their word that they would not sell out to the conservatives.
It’s been an exciting week if you are just watching from the sidelines. An extremely frustrating and stressful week if you are in the midst of the fray.
I imagine Catalan TV has been talking about little else but meanwhile here in the UK I have just switched on BBC News and they didn’t mention it at all.
It’s one of the lessons of living abroad – things that appear super-important to one person are fairly insignificant to another. Where we stand may seem to be the centre of the universe but take a step to one side and you find that everything looks totally different. Of course we are all inter-connected and the breath of a butterfly in Catalunya will ripple across Europe in the end to touch us in Cornwall.
But….taking a deep breath and getting perspective on all of our troubles and worries is a worthwhile exercise.
When I travelled back to Catalunya in October just after the pro-independence election results I was wondering if there would be trouble on the streets as the Spanish government would want to repress any move to secede from the state.
Would there be tanks on the streets of Barcelona? Spanish politicians had made threats.
But of course all was quiet, talking was the order of the day and it continued through the December Spanish election which also ended in a muddle of indecision. They will also need a pact to form a new government.
This year should be interesting.
Apologies for any errors in my description of what is happening – I’m no expert but I do find it very interesting. And I do know a lot of people who really really want Catalunya to be an independent state – it is not a feeling that is going to disappear unless something hugely different happens in the way Spain is run.
- Will the newly formed Catalan government declare independence?
- What will Artur Mas do next?
- Will the Spanish central government try to cool the passion for independence by negotiating new powers or even decentralising Spanish powers?
- Will CUP disappear into the background now that they have lost credibility?