The referendum on the future of Catalonia is scheduled for October, 1. With the national government opposing the vote, the results of the upcoming event remains unclear. Lluc Salellas, member of the National Secretary of the Popular Unity Candidacy (pro-Catalan independence party) shares his views on the current situation describing the challenges ahead of the referendum.
The national government has been reacting negatively to Catalonia’s scheduled referendum. Is it still going to be held? If so, what outcome could be expected?
Last week the Catalan parliament passed the law that allows the referendum. The government’s decision to hold it is very strong even though it is true that the Spanish government’s reaction has been tough. For example, they threatened over 700 mayors that have expressed their willingness to cooperate with the referendum. Still, I am convinced that the referendum will be held on October 1 st all over the country: schools are ready, many people want to vote. We do have a basis to hold the referendum – the people willing to vote and the ballots ready. The outcome is still difficult to predict. We have to see what the Spanish government does in the next few days and how people react to it. It might scare the people and they might not go to the elections. Or it can result in opposite – it may convince more people to go the polls. We do not know the outcome yet, so the main goal for now is to make people vote. The result is not clear, they say it is going to be 50/50. Everything will depend on the turnout, if people want the independence or not.
How did the trial against the mayors affect the current state of affairs?
In all honesty, it will not affect so much the referendum’s organization. However, it might affect the people’s perception of taking part in the referendum. People are getting angry because mayors are well-known as they represent villages and towns. In that sense, citizens feel attached to them and believe that these are non-sense trials. Moreover, mayors have reaffirmed their commitment to hold the referendum. Consequently, the latest news could lead to a higher turnout the 1th of October.
Some say Catalonia is likely to become the next Scotland. What is your attitude to such statements?
I would say that in the upcoming months Catalonia will be what Scotland used to be one or two years ago. It is one of the bigger examples of stateless nations in Europe. I think the member states of the European Union will talk about the processes that are taking place in Catalonia as it cannot be more hidden. With the referendum that is to be held on October 1 st the Spanish government is going a little crazy putting members on trial. This issue is likely to become an international affair. It is no longer going to be a domestic affair. In this sense it will be similar to Scotland. The Scottish issue is the United Kingdom’s internal problem, but now many people are talking about it. It is discussed by German, French, American and Russian presidents. I think that the same story will happen with Catalonia. We have reached the point when one cannot hide it – we are to hold a referendum and the turnout results will be shown all over the world.
What can be done at this point to win the votes?
What our party can do is to ensure that the referendum is organized according to the procedure and the vote is properly held. It needs to become one of the official elections and the government needs to work on recognizing. We will try to send our voters the message that it is safe to go to vote. Procedure-wise everything is ready to hold the elections. Now we only need to ensure security. The leaders of the parties that stand for independence can campaign and they should campaign. We have two weeks ahead of us to campaign for the “yes” and convince people in the streets to do so.
Should the result be positive for you, what is the next step going to be?
If “Yes” wins, the Catalan Parliament should declare the independence and people should go on the streets to show the support to that proclamation. Then we will see what the exact steps are, but what is sure is that everything will have changed because Catalonia will be democratic legitimate state to make its own decisions. It is not a clear scenario and it depends on many issues, the response by international organizations as well. However, the Catalan pro-independence parties have already written a bill to organize the first six months after the referendum. There is a plan and if people support it, it will be developed. If “Yes” wins the referendum determination to go on is clear.