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What You Need to Know About Catalonia's Fight for Independence
On Oct. 1, the Catalonia region of Spain held a referendum and voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence. Catalan leaders are deciding whether to unilaterally declare independence - a move that Spain considers illegal. Bonnie Field, Bentley University Global Studies professor and author of the book, Why Minority Governments Work: Multilevel Territorial Politics in Spain, discusses the effects of this political upheaval.
What does an independence referendum mean for Spain and Catalonia?
The referendum vote and the events surrounding it represent the most significant political crisis Spain has experienced since 1981, when there was a coup attempt against the young democracy. This is the latest step in a clash between the Catalan regional government and the Spanish government, as well as the courts. For the past five years, the Catalan government has been pushing for a referendum on Catalonia’s relationship with Spain. According to polls, 70-80% of Catalans support a legally-binding referendum, though only about 40% support independence. The Catalan government moved forward with the vote, against court orders that had suspended it.
Why does this matter for the Spanish people?
This crisis has degraded Spain’s and Catalonia’s political institutions, image and polarized society. In the referendum, significant numbers of Catalans turned out to vote. The Spanish police who had been ordered to prevent it, used force in many cases. 800 people were injured in addition to 400 police officers. Hundreds of thousands of Catalans protested against the use of force. The Catalan crisis produced the largest drop in the Spanish stock market since the Brexit vote.
What does the future hold?
The Catalan authorities are moving toward declaring independence which likely will lead the Spanish government to take steps to curtail Catalan autonomy according to Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. This will likely require security forces to carry out, which could trigger more violence.
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