Spain. According to COUNTRYAAH, Madrid is the capital of Spain which is located in Southern Europe. The re-enacted political landscape in Spain paved the way for an exciting election year and it was clear that the two-party system that prevailed since the onset of democracy in the late 1970s was overplayed. The new Left Party Podemos (“We Can”) rapid progress was mainly reflected in a crusade for the Socialist Party (PSOE). On the right, the ruling Conservative People’s Party (PP) was challenged by the central party Ciudadanos (“Citizens”), who had previously worked primarily in Catalonia.
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In the municipal and regional elections in May, the electoral support for the PP which lost its own majority held by the party in most of the 13 regions at stake. However, PP remained the largest party, closely followed by PSOE who also backed down. Podemos became the third largest party with a seat in all the regional parliaments, while Ciudadanos came in fourth place.
The parliamentary elections held in December reaffirmed the trend: PP and PSOE lost some further and supported by just under 29 and 22% of voters respectively, while Podemos received almost 21% and Ciudadanos 14%. Neither the right or left bloc gained their own majority and government formation was expected to be difficult.
Political drama was also offered as Catalonia continued to try to break away from Spain despite the central power. Regional President Artur Mas announced a new election held in September, which he explicitly called a vote on independence. Three separatist parties, including Mas’s conservative government party CDC, together won just under half the votes but a majority of the mandate. The newly elected parliament voted in November to begin the path towards proclaiming its own republic. Madrid then appealed to the Constitutional Court, which annulled Catalan law and threatened politicians with prosecution.
In June, King Felipe took away his sister Cristina the title of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca. The reason was the suspicions of tax breaks against her and her husband. Despite widespread protests from both the opposition and human rights organizations, new legislation came into force at the end of the year, which restricted freedom of expression and the right of demonstration. In accordance with the “Monk Breeders Act”, it was forbidden to criticize the state and its representatives, film or photograph police officers on duty and to attend public meetings if they were not given permission.
The economy showed signs of recovery after several years in deep weakening, with growth of around 3% and slowly falling unemployment.
In late 2016, the Spanish state used drastic funds to slow down the process towards independence in Catalonia. In December, the Spanish Constitutional Court overturned 2 resolutions passed by the Catalan parliament in October aimed at paving the way for a referendum on independence in September 2017. The incumbent Carme Forcadell was also summoned by Catalonia’s Supreme Court, accused of allowing a debate on independence in July. The Supreme Court subsequently issued a ruling stating that Forcadell and Catalan President Carles Puigdemont had a duty, “by all means,” to prevent all attempts to circumvent the two resolutions. Otherwise, they will be held criminally liable. (Spain politicising courts to block referendum, says Catalan minister, Guardian 14/12 2016)
Amnesty International was able to reveal in April 2017 that the Spanish group Ferrovial was earning millions from operating the Australian refugee concentration camps on Nauru.
2017 Spain for attacks on Catalonia
The Spanish central government drastically stepped up its fight against Catalan autonomy supporters in September 2017, when it arrested 14 senior Catalan government officials and subsequently closed several WEB sites linked to the planned Catalan independence referendum on October 1. The arrests triggered mass demonstrations in Barcelona and several other Catalan cities, and the Madrid regime then threatened to arrest Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont as well. Madrid then ordered all Catalan schools closed so that they could not be used for the vote and all the ballots they could get near the destroyed. The school closure order triggered a starting double-power situation when Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, announced, that it was not certain it would be able to keep the schools closed due to the resistance of the Catalan population. Madrid would therefore have to deploy its own Guardia Civil militia. Madrid’s fierce attack on Catalonia’s autonomy sharpened the demand for independence on the part of self-governing supporters. Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, in turn, called on the EU to step into the role of mediator in the conflict, but while the EU had no problems contributing to the atomization of Yugoslavia in the 1990s or the split of Kosova kept the Union low profile to Spain. The attitude was that it was a purely internal matter, which the EU did not interfere with. Instead, experts from the UN Human Rights Council criticized the regime in Madrid, stating that the steps Madrid had taken to prevent the referendum seemed to run counter to the fundamental human rights. The Spanish right-wing PP government sought to use the conflict to strengthen its own political position in the other regions of the country. The party had for several years been responsible for «Spanification» of Catalonia through, among other things. injunction to use Spanish in Catalan schools – rather than Catalan. Therefore, the political responsibility for the development of the conflict since 2005 lay almost exclusively on the shoulders of the central government in Madrid.
The Spanish central government turned the Catalan referendum into a massacre. Its Guardia Civil militia went to attacks on schools, voters, Catalan police and Catalan firefighters. 893 Catalans were wounded and 33 Guardia Civil were serving. Despite the attacks, the closure of polling stations and the abduction of ballots, the referendum was still successful in half the schools. The result was DKK 2.26 million. Catalans representing 43% of the voters were allowed to vote. 90% of them voted for independence, 8% against, and 2% were blank or invalid. After the vote, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont called on the international community to step in to mediate in the conflict between the central government and Catalonia. The call was met by alarming silence from the EU, which revealed a very selective stance on human rights. While the Union would probably criticize Poland and Hungary for governmental human rights violations and violations of fundamental rule of law, it labeled the incidents in Spain as a purely internal matter. The following day, a 10-minute general strike was held in Catalonia, followed by a full general strike in protest of Spain’s violent attack on Catalans and a referendum. Spanish Prime Minister Mario Rajoy of the fascist PP blatantly used the conflict to stiffen his own weak political position, and on the other hand was met with sharp criticism of the violence by the Social Democracy and especially Podemos.
Civilian Danish media stood on the side of the fascist PP and ran a “legalistic line”. “Catalonia could not gain independence because it banned the Spanish constitution.” It was the same attitude on democracy and human rights these media had to the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, where the white laws also denied the black majority population the right to democracy and human rights.
Following the referendum, Madrid quickly escalated pressure on Catalonia. Catalonia called for dialogue, the EU stayed outside, and Madrid did not want dialogue but confrontation. In mid-October, the regime arrested Catalan parliament president Jordi Sànchez and Omnium president Jordi Cuixart. At the same time, the regime withdrew the Catalan police chief Trapero’s passport. Hundreds of thousands subsequently demonstrated in Barcelona and other major Catalan cities in protest of the arrests. The strained relationship of the Spanish right-wing radicals with Catalonia is historically conditioned. At the end of the Spanish Civil War, Franco executed 30,000 Catalans in the fort of Castell de Montjuic, high above Barcelona. (Spain High Court jails Catalan separatist leaders pending investigation, Guardian 17/10 2017; Catalonia: Detention of secessionist leaders sparks large protests, Guardian 17/10 2017)
On October 19, Prime Minister Rajoy threatened to abolish Catalan democracy and replace it with direct government from Madrid. The threat came after Catalan self-government President Carles Puigdemont had ignored previous Spanish threats and failed to distance himself from the plans for independence. Puigdemont had again called for negotiation and dialogue. This was denied by Madrid. (Spain to impose direct rule as Catalonia leader refuses to back down, Guardian 19/10 2017)
Puigdemont withheld the Declaration of Independence and called on the EU to step in as a mediator, but the EU did nothing. On October 27, 70 of the 135 members of the Catalan parliament voted therefore to declare Catalonia an independent state. The Declaration of Independence was followed by immediate Spanish intervention. The Madrid regime disbanded the parliament, appointed a governor to head the country, started the transfer of 5000 Guardia Civil militia members and printed new elections to be held on December 21. It was unclear which “parties” and candidates Madrid would allow to stand. The Declaration of Independence was met with cheering scenes in the streets of Barcelona, but subsequently also by demonstrations against.