Against disappointment, hope
After the elections to the Catalan Parliament, I have detected around me many reactions of disappointment and discouragement at the results and political leaders declarations. I confess that I also share the disappointment, since I had hoped to see changes; but I will not let myself be carried away by discouragement. That is why I would like to analyse and reflect on what is happening to us and, with much more modesty, propose ideas on what I think needs to be done.
1. The recent scenario. It is clear to me that over the last decade politics has been leading us towards a situation that we can describe as complex and not very encouraging. I will highlight some of its fundamental features.
The Catalan desire, which I understand and in part share, to change the current relationship between Catalonia and the State has led governments on both sides to pursue two very unrealistic objectives, and to seek to achieve them through two very mistaken strategies. The two objectives could be christened "utopian independence" and "deeply emotional unionism". And the strategies as impotent unilateralism and irrational repression. There has been a failure to understand that neither of the two objectives are reasonable in this 21st century, in the midst of globalisation and in the process of building the European Union; and that neither of the two strategies chosen is acceptable or effective in a framework in which dialogue and negotiation are the most common tools, wars aside, for resolving political confrontations.
These four errors, two on each side, have been hardening the confrontation and contributing to create a political environment in which ideological and emotional debates have taken precedence over the systematic treatment of citizens' important daily problems. The growing impression is that political activity, which should serve to help solve real personal difficulties, has ceased to do so and has instead become a creator of problems, confrontations and new divisions between citizens.
This dynamic, together with the crises we have experienced, has led everywhere to an increase in citizen disaffection towards political activity, an intensification of economic and social polarisation and a radicalisation on the extremes with the growth of new radical groups opposed to the system, both on the right and on the left.
In the Catalan case, there has been a simplification of the ideological composition of the citizenry, which has been separated into two antagonistic groups of very similar dimensions: pro-independence and unionist. The reality is much more plural. There are radical pro-independence supporters, pro-independence negotiators, Catalanists, Spanish negotiators and radical unionists. Both governments should take this much more into account in their actions.
2. Deadlock and disappointment. Faced with this situation, which can be described as political deadlock, there was hope that the latest elections, both in Spain and in Catalonia, could bring about a new dynamic. The formation of a new government in Madrid improved things momentarily but not sufficiently. And Sunday's results in Catalonia do not seem to allow us to speak of a major change. It is true that a pro-independence vote of 48% is not the same as a vote of 51%; but with this small difference, and taking into account the level of participation in each case, from the highest to the lowest, it is not possible to speak of a new situation. Nor is a cornered PSC the same as a triumphant PSC, but it probably won't have the option of forming a government either. Bearing this in mind, and seeing the difficulties of the ERC-Junts-CUP relationship, one is inclined to think that we are back to where we were. Hence the strong disappointment.
3. Looking to the future. I would like to introduce some elements of hope to avoid discouragement. A new Catalan government must set itself two immediate objectives: to resume effective political action in the face of real problems, going beyond ideological and emotional debates; and, while preserving its objectives of change, to find ways of dialogue to unblock the situation of confrontation with Spain.
I am convinced that it is much better to have a government led by Sánchez and Iglesias in Madrid than a government led by Rajoy. I also believe that a possible government led by Aragonés, with some kind of complicity with the PSC and En Comú, could be much more useful than the governments led by Puigdemont or Torra. I think it is advisable to continue to support the current government in Madrid and at the same time make possible a better understanding in Catalonia, reducing the current social division and incorporating the desires and hopes of an important part of the citizens who have been excluded and who have felt forgotten by the last governments. That is why it is important to think carefully about the proposals on the basis of which a new government can be formed.
I believe that it is urgent to demonstrate the will to enter a new stage that will lead to the beginning of a process of dialogue. It would be of great symbolic significance to ask for and obtain from Madrid an amnesty for prisoners and exiles, offering in exchange, on the Catalan side, a renunciation of a unilateral declaration of independence, and foreseeing the need for a referendum on a new relationship agreed in a negotiation between governments. Will it be possible?
Joan Majó is an engineer and former minister