Friday, 24 November 2006

too busy studying!

Right ladies and gentlemen.
I have not forgotten about the blog, it is just that I am studying like crazy for the CFA exam.
Much, much more difficult that I initially thought; I have taken this week off work to study. This week I have been at the library from 9am until 8.30pm. Exam is on December 2nd so normal services will resume after that weekend.

PS1: Montilla, an immigrant born in Andalusia, has today been invested President of Catalonia. Will Spain ever have a Catalan primer minister again? Even just a candidate?
PS2: And now that the anti-Catalan Ciudadanos speak Spanish in the Catalan Parliament, could the Spanish parlament stop the prohibition of addressing the chamber in any language other than Spanish? What language is being discriminated by the law?

Arrrgh, can't wait to get this bloody exam off the way!

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Dangerous games

The results are almost official and the counting is over:

*1999: PSC-PSOE and ICV had joint lists in Girona, Tarragona and Lleida, but not in Barcelona.
Turnout in brackets.

The above table shows the results of the last three Catalan elections. It shows that the electoral map does not change much.

Today, however, it is a very sad day for Catalonia. A party named Ciudadanos has been elected to Parliament, the Barcelona area returning 3 MPs. Despite being the first the party was participating in the electoral process, the media has given them plenty of space and coverage. This is most unusual in Spanish elections: normally the media does not cover parties without current elected representatives. In this case, the Spanish media has only been too happy to give them plenty of media coverage, unlike the dozen or so other parties with no representation.

Ciudadanos are a populist, pro-Spanish and viciously anti-Catalan party. Their policies will cause our language and culture to disappear within a generation. They are a vindictive party, with divisive policies and sectarian hatred for anything related to Catalonia. In the Barcelona area, where there are millions of first and second generation immigrants from the south of Spain that moved there under Franco, this party has achieved about 80,000 votes, enough to go over the 3% threshold and thus gain 3 elected representatives.

It remains to be seen what their impact is going to be in Catalan politics. Probably not much. However, the objective of the Spanish media has been achieved: there is now an openly and populist anti-Catalan party elected in Catalonia. This is painfully similar to what the Spanish nationalists did to the Valencia region in the 80s and 90s. They supported a movement called ‘blaverisme’. These are violent thugs that attacked (and continue to do so) bookshops, universities, community centres, etc. They too received plenty of financial and media support from the Spanish right and their divisive linguistic policies in Valencia have rendered the language almost extinct. Now, with Valencian language and culture in the doldrums, they are going for us. Ciudadanos are the equivalent of the Blavero movement and they share the same objective: to remove Catalan language and culture of the educational curriculum, to make our language an optional pastime, nothing more than a folkloric anecdote from the past.

Now that Ciudadanos has been elected to parliament, they will get a slice of the public funding that elected political parties receive, and more importantly, they will get more media coverage at the next election. As if they did not have enough already with all the help of the Spanish press.
Optimists will point out to history: Lerroux was also elected in Barcelona in the 1930s, and was quickly dispatched at the following elections. In the first Catalan elections after the end of Franco’s dictatorship, a party called Partido Socialista de Andalucia was also returned to parliament with two members for Barcelona (1979). They quickly merged into the PSC-PSOE.

That is wishful thinking in my view. The difference now is that there is a sizeable percentage of our population (around 4-6% in the Barcelona area near the city) that lives in the suburbs of Barcelona and Tarragona that does not feel any sense of belonging to Catalonia. They are Spanish, feel Spanish and don’t want to learn Catalan, even though they live in Catalonia. In a normal country, (Switzerland, Belgium) this would not be a problem. I don’t know of any countries where migratory movements are used as a basis to alter and influence linguistic policy and rights. What next: Arabic or Romanian will also become an official language in Catalonia just because a few thousand people resent and object to learn the local language of Catalonia (i.e: Catalan)?

These are very worrying times. With political representation, Ciudadanos will inflame social tensions and will wind up people to pursue political gains. IF anything this underscores our fragility as a stateless nation, and our coward and complacent attitude to our own national issue.

There are many hidden messages in the results. Turnout was almost 6 percentage points below 2003, and all parties have lost votes except the neo-communists or eco-socialists of ICV. This a find most surprising for this is a party that has behaved as a mere appendix to the PSC-PSOE. Yet they have been rewarded with the addition of three MPs to their previous nine.

It appears that there has been a flow of votes in the Barcelona area away from the PSC-PSOE and PP towards ICV and Ciudadanos. In the province of Barcelona (85 MPs) PSC-PSOE has lost 4 and PP 1. Of these, 2 seem to have gone to IC-V and 3 towards Ciudadanos. In Lleida, the PSC-PSOE loses 1 that goes to IC-V.

ERC has lost 2 MPs in Barcelona, and they seem to have gone to CiU. CiU has won in the 4 provinces and in 38 out of the 41 counties (comarques). The other 3 counties are Barcelona City, Baix Llobregat (south of the city) and Valles Occidental (north-west). In these areas, which are mostly populated by Spanish speaking first and second generation immigrants the PSC-PSOE has won, with the Ciudadanos party doing fairly well. In some towns and quarters in the city, it has achieved results ranging from 3-7% of the vote. In the upmarket quarter of Sarrià-St Gervasi or in the suburban Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Ciutadans trails behind ERC only by about 2%. Worrying stuff indeed and perhaps a sign of things to come.

What I find most disheartening are all the missing votes for ERC. This dispel the myth that some parties have ‘loyal’ voters. ERC has lost about 130,000 votes compared to 2003, about 2.38% share of the vote. The PP has lost about 55,000, about 1.25% share. All parties have lost votes apart from IC-V.

PSC-PSOE has haemorrhaged a full 200,000 votes in Barcelona province, and PP about 55,000; yet only about 78,000 of these missing votes have gone to Ciudadanos, and about 30,000 to ICV. Where are the other 147,000 votes?. Does this mean that there is hidden vote out there for Ciudadanos to win. Very scary indeed.

The tripartite (PSC-ERC-ICV) has lost 4 MPs. CiU has won 2 in Barcelona.
There are two majorities possible:
1) a repeat of the tripartite
2) CiU + ERC government.

ERC chiefs meet tomorrow to decide on alliances but I would be surprised if they chose to repeat a tripartite with the PSC-PSOE given the minor corrective and absenteeism of their electorate. ERC voters are supposed to be the most loyal and faithful yet they have abstain in great numbers. I think the grassroots do not want another tripartite coalition.
Interesting and worrying days and years ahead. It could be the trigger we need to wake up our dormant national pride or it could be the beginning of the end for Catalonia.