Thursday, December 17, 2009

13D: The Myth About the Low Turnout

Albert Montón is a producer and screenwriter of documentary films. This originally appeared on his blog.

We didn't have to hold a referendum to see that the turnout would be "low". And I write it in quotation marks because, even though that's what everyone said, that's not what I say, not by any stretch. The Spanish press had their headlines written long ago: pantomime, ridiculous, witchcraft... a smattering of independentists. I'm sorry to have to go back to Brunete*, but it seems to me that it is a demonstration of the fact that independentism here still needs to get past a certain colonization — not political, economic, or cultural — but mental. We still think too often in the terms and language that Spain sets for us.

A turnout of 27% is really low, they say. And we accept it. Sunday, it was barely 8 pm, the polling places in Vilafranca were filled with sad faces like poems. Hardly anyone came, only 23%, they said.

But you just can't compare it with official elections. First, because this one wasn't official. And second, because one of the choices, the No vote, was totally boycotted, on purpose, to make it fail, to make it look bad. They're not comparable. A non-official referendum, organized completely at the grassroots level with spare change — and they didn't even spend it all —, and with an explicit boycott of one of the options, that received a 27% turnout, is a robust success, as was pointed out in the international media. Indeed, to compare what was said in the international papers to what was written in the Spanish press is like comparing what the world says about a banana republic with what the current dictator's loyal outlet dishes out.

And keeping in mind that almost all the votes cast were for Yes (95%), we can say that one out of every 4 Catalans invited to the polls gave their explicit support for independence. It's important to note that one out of 4 Spaniards votes for PP in the legislative elections and one out of every four votes for PSOE. The two together make up the "two Spains", or so they tell us as well. So, we can affirm that independentism has the same prevalence in Catalonia as either one of the two Spains on their home turf. Not bad at all, because in addition, the referendum was not even official in contrast with the legislative elections which most certainly are.

However with those results, I would dare to say that counting all the municipalities in an official referendum, the No vote would hardly have a chance of winning. It's clear that the 73% that didn't vote wouldn't all vote No, as the Spainist propaganda implies. With a turnout of 70%, the Yes vote would win handily, and you'd have to get to about 85% for the No votes to even have a chance, although it's hard to imagine how they'd mobilize the votes for that option, without any grassroots support.

It's obvious that neither can we extrapolate the results to the rest of Catalonia. How areas like Barcelona, the metropolitan area that surrounds it, or Tarragona would act is anyone's guess. But it's also true that we are at the beginning of everything. And the conclusions must be positive. In Spain, the media has to give their clients what they ask for, but those that are in the know are worried. With reason.

Translation Notes:
*Brunete - Is the name of an armored tank division of the Spanish Army, named in honor of the Battle of Brunete in which the Fascists inflicted heavy casualties on the Republicans. Here it refers to the conservative Spanish press: the "Brunete mediàtica" translates (very) roughly as the "tanks of the Spanish Nationalist press"...

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