Catalonian Democracy And Article 155


Catalonia has been thrown into chaos this month, beginning on October 1, after the Catalonian President declared independence following a referendum. But immediately after the decided vote, the Spanish court deemed Catalonian independence illegal and suspended all processes of independence reform. The self-proclaimed independence has sparked debate all over Europe, with many still unsure as to the appropriate outcome. However amid the debate that is still raging in Spain, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy decided to enact Article 155 on October 21, a controversial piece of legislation that essentially forces compliance with the majority rule.

The announcement to enact Article 155 has upset the Catalonian population as it is seen to directly undermine their self-governance and the so-called democracy of Spain. Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont has expressed his willingness to engage in talks with the Spanish government, yet reports suggest that they have refused to participate and are only determined to dissolve the situation. The Spanish Vice President told reporters, “The political conflict did not begin as a cause of independence but as an exercise of irresponsibility that has been growing.” Essentially accusing the Catalonian government of incompetent behaviour which has resulted in the current unrest. A vote was scheduled for October 26 but President Puigdemont postponed due to the lack of “guarantees” which poses a threat for the sitting government.

The situation in Catalonia is concerning, and with the application of Article 155 it becomes almost frightening. Despite what some may see as an escalating situation, stripping and reducing processes of democracy for any group or individual is not something that we should take lightly. It is something that all should be concerned about regardless of political perspective. And on top of that, the forced suppression of democratic rights of a minority (or really anyone) should never be a solution, especially when the initial problem was a lack of freedom and choice. There is certainly a multitude of issues on either side of the Spanish divide, and they should be discussed and challenged. However the reported behaviour of the Spanish majority is alarming in the way that they refuse to participate and instead are considering suppression and oppression. That cannot be productive in any regards, and it hasn’t been, all it has done is outrage the Catalonian public more.

Catalonia has always been moving towards a more and more independent state, and the referendum was just the next step. Yet it seems like a step too far for the Spanish government, and Article 155 could take away everything Catalonians have been working for. If the Article is enacted (as they have suggested) the Catalan government will be dismantled and the Central government in Madrid will once again take that role.

The full force of Article 155 has not been felt, and the Spanish government has assured that it is only an intermediate application to the turmoil. Yet uncertain possibility still looms and Catalonia is on the verge of civil unrest, a step in the wrong direction could be crucial for Spain. Thus, caution is highly advised, on all sides. The European Union should be actively trying to dissolve this situation instead of taking sides. This is a situation that if approached with caution and reason could be resolved peacefully, even at this point, but if the Spanish government persists in its efforts to subvert opposition, then conflict will be assured.

Eli McGarvie

Graduate from the Australia National University, studying a Masters in writing at the University of Queensland.
Eli McGarvie

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