The fate of Carles Puigdemont continues to become more entangled. The deposed Catalan President has just expressed his desire to participate in the new Catalan elections which Madrid unilaterally scheduled for 21 December, after Spain dissolved the old Catalan Parliament and stripped the autonomous Catalan administration of its powers, including Puigdemont.
“I am ready to be a candidate… it’s possible to run a campaign from anywhere”.
Carles Puigdemont’s colleagues who led Catalonia in its controversial declaration of independence are currently under arrest on the orders of the Madrid regime. Meanwhile, Puigdemont is currently in Belgium where he plans to fight Spain’s issuing of a European Arrest Warrant against him for the charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement.
Because Puigdemont will ostensibly be fighting extradition in Belgian courts during the December elections, it is assumed that he will be standing as a candidate in absentia. Furthermore, this assumes that Spain will allow him to put his name forward on the ballot of elections which will be controlled by Madrid. Chances are that as someone wanted as a traitor by the Spanish regime, he will not be allowed to stand. In this case, voters may have to write in Puigdemont’s name, something that will almost certainly lead Spain to disregard such ballots as “invalid”.
In this sense Puigdemont is correct in saying that if his name is not allowed on the ballot the vote will not be “be neutral, independent, (or) normal”.
Whatever one’s views on Catalan independence or on Puigdemont personally, the fact of the matter is that Spain is facing a crisis of democracy of its own making. While Spain continues to file paperwork in order to officially condemn the 1 October independence referendum in which Catalans voted to form an independent republic, Spain could have just as easily ignored the referendum as one with no legal standing, rather than condemn it as illegal. Such a discrepancy is highly important in this instance.
A referendum without any legal status is essentially a large scale opinion poll. For example, if a majority of Americans took part in a poll asking their opinion on whether Donald Trump should be removed from office and if the majority of those polled said ‘yes’, this would have no official bearing on Trump’s Presidency. However, depending on how transparently the poll was conducted, it would have a great deal of bearing on the collective opinion in Washington.
If Spain was so keen to minimise the results of the referendum, Madrid could have simply minimised the process. Instead, Madrid granted the process a position of extreme attention, one which resulted in an attitude that can be described as state-sanctioned anti-Catalan mania, complete with police brutality against peaceful voters.
This has had the effect of making the vote feel as though it was as important or even more important than even Catalonia’s leaders wanted it to be. Catalonia’s leadership has at all times, been deeply restrained and moderate. They are separatists, but not revolutionaries and have consistently practised and preached pacifism.
Even at this late stage, every time the Catalan independence movement seems to be fizzling out of its own accord, Spain continues to ignite passions with arrests of peaceful Catalan politicians and activists, combined with an official attitude which is hellbent on adding insult to Catalonia’s injury by treating the independence movement with mockery and explicit legal condemnation, rather than tact and diplomacy.
While some accuse Puigdemont of being a ‘coward’ for running away from Catalonia and Spain as a whole, it is ultimately Puigdemont who is having the last laugh, morally speaking. Every time Spain is presented with an opportunity to disregard the referendum peacefully, it shoots itself in the foot.
Instead of ignoring the referendum, the regime used police brutality to try and crush it. Instead of passively saying the results have no legal bearing, Madrid took the active step of legally proscribing the vote. Now, instead of quietly dismissing the Catalan government, they seek to arrest and persecute its leaders in what can only be described as an act of political vengeance before deeply politicised courts. According to the World Economic Forum, Spain’s judicial independence ranks lower than Saudi Arabia, India and Kenya.
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) October 21, 2017
Carles Puigdemont has been called everything from a coward, to a troublemaker, to an un-inspirational leader, but there is one thing he is importantly not: he is not an extremist. The Rajoy regime in Madrid however, continues to take the most extreme options at its disposal, even when the backing of the wider world meant that Spain had the luxury of taking a passive option.
The fact that Spain seeks vengeance rather than a peaceful restoration of its desired status quo, speaks to the fact that Spain is far more ideologically motivated than the Catalan independence movement. The Catalan independence movement wants democratic discussions and peaceful dialogue. By contrast, Spain wants to ram its power down the collective throat of Catalans in true Francoist fashion.
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) November 3, 2017
While some doubted the veracity of Catalan accusations that the Rajoy regime was little more than a “nano-Franco” regime as Pepe Escobar calls it, they are doing everything they can to earn a very repressive, violent and aggressive reputation.
The artist and socio-political philosopher Gilad Atzmon has further developed the theory of Jerusalemite versus Athenian thinking in his book Being In Time. Here, he defines Jerusalemite thinking as being driven by commandments, blind legalism and a violent belief in revelation. By contrast, Athenian thinking is described as ethical, cognitive and logical. Increasingly, the Spanish regime is crushing the Athenian spirit which is implicit in the peaceful Catalan struggle to first of all voice an opinion and ultimately debate it in a mature and reasoned manner. One can deride the imperfections of the Catalan independence movement, but these are ultimately dwarfed by the rigidity, unjustified violence and blind legalism of a Spanish regime, whose very laws have very little relationship to ethical justice.
While Carles Puigdemont continues to fight for both his personal freedom and his liberty to exercise his democratic opinion, Spain is perpetually trapped in a morally bankrupt vacuum of ideas in which Rajoy continues to snatch the moral low ground, even while achieving a dirty political victory.