Today, the 6th December 2018, is the 40th anniversary of a major milestone in Spanish history: the introduction of the Spanish constitution, which was passed by popular referendum in 1978 and marked the end of the Francoist dictatorship which had been in force since the Spanish Civil War.
However, the celebrations were somewhat bittersweet – if not outright offensive – for Catalan citizens in Spain who hope for independence. The Constitution is what the Spanish central government used to justify refusing to legalise an independence referendum, as it strongly emphasises the need for the “unity of the nation”.
While the situation in Catalonia is calmer now than it was a year ago, there are still fierce tensions over the contentious bid for independence – especially with the trail of the pro-independence leaders. If you visit the pro-independence areas of Catalonia now, you will still see independence flags, yellow crosses and political slogans on walls and the sides of houses. It is a story which is very much not over. And questions of the Constitution are even entering general Spanish politics – while the current PM Pedro Sánchez is in favour of modifying the Constitution to suspend the King’s inviolability and modify the territorial structure, he is firmly against a vote on independence. Other parties, such as Ciutadans (Cs), the largest Unionist party in Catalonia, also hope to reform it without “breaking” Spain apart with an independence vote.
It’s bittersweet, too, in the aftermath of the recent Andalucian elections which saw Far-right populist group Vox storm their way to a shocking 10% of votes, winning 12 seats. Vox is the first far-right political party to win seats in Spain since the end of the democracy. It sets a foreboding tone for the approaching European elections and the Spanish General Election next year.
For some people, including Miquel Roca (a Catalan lawyer and politician who helped draft the original constitution), the rise of the Right is all the more reason to be wary of making modifications – warning that it might end up being for the worse. Vox specifically advocates suppressing Catalonian autonomy in its campaign rhetoric. There is a risk of not only allowing such parties to have a say in changing the Constitution, but in that advocating for giving Catalonia more power and independence may indeed push more Spaniards to vote for these extremist parties.
For now, Spain is very much in a kind of deadlock. We can only wonder whether the Spanish Constitution will live to see it’s 50th birthday…
MINI POLITICS is a new series on my blog. Every week, I will be writing a short and simple explanation of a current political issue or event in Europe, designed to be accessible for people who don’t think they’re interested in politics as well as those who are interested in European politics but don’t want to trawl through pages of analysis, or who don’t speak the language of the country where the event is taking place. Mini summaries of big questions, made simple.