After Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump's election in the US, the political elites of the world are slowly waking up to the inevitability that the will of the people can not be ignored forever. In Northern Europe, the electorate has rebelled against political elites, like Angela Merkel, who have embraced "open borders" and the influx of refugees from war-torn areas in the mid-east that have brought with them increasing violence and terror attacks. In the U.S., the rebellion is the direct result of Americans being fed up with a federal government that is defined by cronyism and complete dysfunction.
Now, the latest demonstration of an electorate fighting back against its elected officials comes from Spain as 80,000 people rallied in Barcelona on Sunday in a show of support for Catalan leaders locked in a political battle with Madrid over an independence referendum. In Catalonia, separatists complain their relatively wealthy region is overtaxed by an oppressive central government in Madrid to subsidize poorer regions of the country.
While separatists site a November 2014 "mock referendum" in which 90% of Catalans supported secession, other polls suggest the population is roughly split on the idea. Meanwhile, Spain's central government has consistently held that individual regions do not have the constitutional authority to hold their own referendum votes that concern the "integrity of the country." Per the Associated Press:
Separatist sentiment has been on the rise in recent years in the wealthy northeastern region that speaks Catalan along with Spanish. Separatists complain that Catalonia pays more taxes than it should to the central government.
In 2014, then-president Mas ignored an order by Spain's Constitutional Court to suspend a mock referendum on Catalan secession. Mas' regional government went ahead with the informal poll anyway, staffing voting stations with volunteers. Nearly 90 percent of the ballots were in favor of independence, but only 2 million of the 5.4 million eligible voters cast ballots.
Polls consistently show that Catalonia's 7.5 million residents are about equally divided on breaking century-old ties with the rest of Spain.
Catalonia's current regional president, Carles Puigdemont, plans to call another referendum on independence by September.
"These are situations that can only be solved politically," Puigdemont said at a separate rally in his home village on Sunday.
Spain's government has consistently said that regions don't have the constitutional right to hold a referendum concerning the integrity of the country.
As the protests rage on, several of Catalonia's lawmakers, including former regional president, Artur Mas, and the current speaker of the regional parliament, Carme Forcadell, are facing court cases by the Spanish government for "serious disobedience" and "malfeasance," after staging a secession referendum in 2014. Mas is now to stand trial on charges that could prevent him from holding a public office for 10 years.
In November 2014, Catalonia held the symbolic referendum after Spain's Constitutional Court blocked a bid to hold an official poll. Nearly 90 percent of the 2.2 million people who took part in the vote backed independence, though the turnout was slightly more than 40 percent, meaning that more than three million eligible voters did not go to the polling stations.
The mock referendum also showed that Catalonia's 7.5 million residents were already equally divided on breaking century-old relations with the rest of the country.
“If you attack our democratically elected representatives, you attack our institutions, all our people and our sovereignty, and we will never allow that,” said Jordi Cuixart, the president of Omnium, a separatist grassroots group, adding, “Our cause is democracy and we will never let our elected representatives down.”
As we pointed out last year and above, the primary rallying cry for Catalan secessionists is that the relatively wealthy region of Spain is being disproportionately taxed to subsidize less wealthy regions of the country.
Seems as though the US isn't the only region of the world where people have disagreements over the exact definition of "fair share."