Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is September 14th Catalonia's best day for a referendum?

Originally published in Vilaweb on July 9, 2013

Analysis of the factors that point to a referendum between Catalonia's National Day on Sept 11, 2014 and the Scottish Referendum to be held on September 18, 2014

The big unknown about the process towards independence these days is the actual date of the referendum. There are many more issues on the table, like the question itself and the format of the referendum. But what seems to be on everyone's mind at this moment is just when this all-important step will be taken towards the independence of Catalonia. The legislative agreement between CiU and ERC establishes that it must happen during 2014. An analysis of the current situation and the political, social, and economic variables point to having the referendum on September 14.

The specific date will be announced, according to the commitment made by CiU and ERC by the end of the year. The factors that might be taken into account when deciding on one date or another are the subject of this VilaWeb report: The seven determining factors for the date of the referendum on independence. The factors analyzed at that time were the date of the Scottish referendum (September 18, 2014), the EU elections (May 22 and 25), the budget and deficit ceiling, pressure from the community, an aggressive reaction from the Spanish, the possible economic collapse of the Government, and the World Cup in Brazil (June and July).

September 14—on the table

All of these factors are still valid and will surely influence setting the date. But as the process moves a long, there is one date that stands out in conversations across party and civic organization lines. September 14th has a number of virtues that might just make it the best day.

Three months after European elections

Some have proposed having the referendum at the same time as the European elections. But most believe that this confluence of dates would be considered inopportune in Brussels and would confuse the debates—that of independence with those about Europe—and there is no good reason to make them coincide. From this point of view, it would make more sense that the referendum not coincide with any other election.

Holding the referendum before the EU elections would be hasty, according to government sources, since there wouldn't be enough time to prepare either the referendum or the campaign. One of the most common suggestions is that there be three months between the referendum and the EU elections—either before or after. If before is too soon, then it would have to be after, which pushes it to August 25th at the very earliest.

Before the Scottish Referendum

Another factor to keep in mind that might determine the date is the Scottish referendum. Most people consulted by VilaWeb think it makes sense to hold the Catalan referendum before Scotland does (on September 18) in case the no vote prevails there. In addition, some informal opinions seem to indicate that the holding of the Catalan referendum before the Scottish referendum might favor both groups, assuming a pro-independence victory in Catalonia. That factor leaves very few possible dates for the Catalan referendum: either Sunday, September 7 or Sunday, September 14.

The Catalan National Day

The last important element to take into account is the closeness to Catalan's National Day, on September 11th. Some people think that if the referendum is held on September 7th, then September 11th can be transformed into a celebration of Catalan independence. But the truth is that September 7th would leave little time for the campaign, jammed into the last days of August (when much of Catalonia is on holiday). In contrast, holding the referendum on September 14 would allow the campaign to take place mostly after the vacation period. In addition, the celebration of the National Day on September 11 could well serve as a magnificent opportunity for showing the strength of the pro-sovereignty movement just three days before the referendum.

A week of international media attention

In addition, having the two referendums in the same week—September 14 in Catalonia and September 18 in Scotland—would completely focus media attention on both country's drives for independence. With the prologue of a great show of strength on September 11th, the media of the entire world would likely report on the pro-independence will of both Catalans and Scottish. Some also think that international media attention would favor the independence option in Catalonia, and would weaken any obstructionist strategies from Spain and any attempt at prohibiting the referendum outright.

1 comment:

  1. All that seems to make perfect sense.

    (Visca Catalonia lliiure!)

    The only problem is that it means SUCH a long wait ...