Puigdemont pushes his idea through the back door
10 November, 2017
It would be understandable if this title sounds controversial to many. After all, how can such a sacred idea as national independence be violated with terms like contraband?
But let us go over the facts, or more precisely, the data on the referendum held in Catalonia on 1 October. Some 90.18% of people who went to the polling stations voted in favour of independence. According to the now ousted president Carles Puigdemont and his circle of people this is a crushing number and should silence all opponents of Catalan independence. However, the problem is that only 2.28m people cast their vote, which is well below the 50% mark of the Catalan electorate, which numbers 5.31m. According to the official figures, the voter turnout was 43.03%, which makes the referendum invalid.
A plebiscite can be viewed as a political customs office. Voting determines which ideas meet the requirements, pass the regulatory inspection and therefore can be legally distributed in politics. Conversely, the political ideas that do not successfully pass the test of the customs mechanism that is voting, and yet somehow find a way to circulate in politics, become contraband. This is exactly what happened with the issue of Catalan independence because of the low turnout.
Emboldened by the strong result in favour of independence, Puigdemont and his circle of likeminded people perhaps think that the turnout indicator is a legal formality or a red-tape nuisance that should not be taken into account when deeds of historical importance are being done. I would not be surprised if they are doing the following math – take the 8%, that the turnout was short of the 51% threshold, and subtract it from the 90% who voted for independence, and voila – the referendum is legal. Surely, the resulting 82% are more than enough to make the grounds for Catalan independence incontrovertible. And irreversible.
Yes, but this is playing casuistry with the numbers, a distortion of the data. Such logic may well insist that three minus two equals four.
Besides, Puigdemont can be countered with another, much simpler math that reflects real logic instead of casuistry. If the turnout is 43%, that would mean that 57% of people did not vote. It is unrealistic to think that they are staunch supporters of Catalan independence because if they were, they would not have passed on the opportunity to vote for it.
There is one more thing. Catalan citizens who are against their region’s secession from Spain protested in Barcelona on 29 October. Various media reports had their number between 1.1m and 1.5m people. Has Puigdemont ever brought together so many Catalans in any of his campaign rallies, including in the build-up to the referendum? Incidentally, if you compare those figures with the 2.28m Catalans who went to the polling stations, you will see that the Spain supporters in the former scenario are almost half the number of people who voted in the referendum, and in the second are even more than half. Meanwhile, in the past 10 days of October, four opinion polls were conducted in Catalonia and in three of those the supporters of Spain formed a majority. Even if we assume that these surveys and the other mentioned arguments are unconvincing, there is an irrefutable fact that cannot be overlooked – considerably less than half of eligible Catalan voters (by a margin of 8%) participated in the 1 October referendum.
What is the upshot then? The ensuing actions of Puigdemont and his circle, including the excited declaration of independence, mean that a minority is trying to impose its will on the majority. This in no way can be described as a manifestation of democracy, even though democracy protects the rights of minorities. In that sense, Puigdemont is trying to smuggle his idea, which makes the Catalan independence nothing more than pure political contraband, despite the veil of righteousness that the idea wears.
Yuri Mihalkov is the head of the International Affairs department of BGNES News Agency. The article was originally published by the Agency.