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The Catalan Gordian knot has many facets (e.g., ethical, economical, political, legal) we willingly ignore to concentrate instead on a simple practical moral question:
What is a valid majority for a claim to independence ?
In the 2012 parliamentary elections, pro-independence parties gathered 1788 thousands votes out of 5414 thousands registered voters i.e., 33% of the catalans with a right to vote explicitly give them consent to rule the land.
That an alliance endorsed only by a minority gets to govern a country is the norm in the developed world as the constitution and courts guarantee that basic freedoms will be respected and the majority will not be mistreated. For instance, the Spanish Popular Party obtained an absolute majority in the Cortes in 2011 with 10.867 thousands votes out of 35.779 thousand registered voters i.e., a 30% support.
More recently, the 2014 Catalan poll gathered 1862 thousands secessionist votes among residents over 16 years of age which corresponds to a maximum of 1820 thousands votes among the estimated 5350 thousands people called to vote later this year (we do not count out foreigners). The support for secession may thus have risen to 34% (of the voting population).
Now, the secession of a territory is such a deeply transformative project it should not be decided lightly. The strong criteria for unilateral independence declaration is an absolute 50% majority (ideally reached in a dedicated referendum) instead of the relative majority used in parliamentary elections. This criteria is potent because it means that more than half of the population actively support secession while less than half holds a variety of distinct views (among which the status quo).
Applying this strong criteria to the coming parliamentary election would thus require 2675 thousands valid pro-independence votes (for either of the lists that distinctively promote secession). Comparing with the know support for secession, we may say that secessionists are still 855 thousands votes short of achieving a morally unassailable position. Oddly enough, this is about the total votes received by socialists and ecologists in the 2012 election.
The weak criteria endorsed by Catalan secessionists is to reach a majority of seats in the coming parliament (as a referendum does seem to be on the horizon). Since, on the one hand, Spanish electoral law (which applies to Catalonia in the absence of a proper law) favors large coalitions and, on the other hand, unionists votes will be scattered among many parties, the secessionists will, in all likelihood, achieve their goal with the 1820 thousand votes alluded to before. Thus, unless the participation of unionist voters rises meteorically, the weak criteria will amount to an active support of 34% of the voting population.
Two decades ago, the Canada Supreme Court requested about Quebec “a clear majority vote on a clear question in favour of secession”. Luckily for them, the NO won two times avoiding the need to qualify that statement but today in Catalonia, we must all ask ourselves
Is 34% an acceptable threshold for calling secession ? if not, what is the clear majority needed (up to 50%) ?
Alternatively, out of some 5350 thousand catalans with a right to vote on 27-S,
How many valid secessionist votes are needed to leave Spain with a straight face (from 1820 to 2675 thousands) ?
I eagerly await our motivated answers.
Nicolas Boccard, UdG
Statistics about modern transport safety proposed by institutions in the US or Europe tend to go back only a decade or two. Likewise, the wikipedia entries also lacks a long term vision. We have thus decided to offer one here.