Catalan independence movement crumbles as Puigdemont flees to Belgium
No resistance so far to Madrid’s imposition of direct rule
31 October, 2017
Back on 12th October 2017 I wrote an article for The Duran in which I said that it was Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement which were responsible for the stand-off in Catalonia because of their decision to call an independence referendum that was unconstitutional and illegal.
I also questioned the widely expressed view that this was a serious crisis either for the EU or for Spain, and I said that provided the Spanish government handled the situation firmly it was all but certain to prevail in the stand-off.
It is perhaps too soon to say that the crisis in Catalonia is over but Puigdemont’s abject performance in his press conference in Brussels today suggests that it soon will be.
Not only has Puigdemont fled Catalonia instead of leading the ‘resistance’ there, but during his press conference he seems to have drawn back on his own independence declaration.
Meanwhile the Catalan police appear to be submitting to the authority of Madrid, the Spanish Guardia Civil has raided their offices, Puigdemont appears to be accepting Madrid’s call for new elections, and of the massive resistance that many predicted there is no sign.
The “crisis” in Catalonia is a case study of misunderstanding and misperception.
A strong and self-confident independence movement functioning within a constitutional democracy like Spain’s which is confident of the support of the majority of the people it claims to represent has no reason to resort to illegality as the Catalan independence movement did since in a constitutional democracy there are always multiple alternative legal avenues available to it.
The fact that the Catalan independence movement instead chose to act illegally shows that it was not in the end confident of the support of the majority of the people it claimed to represent.
Once the bluff behind its resort to illegality was called, this not only became clear; it also exposed the fact that its resort to illegality had actually lost it support.
In such a situation the Spanish state with the law behind it and backed by the overwhelming majority of Spain’s people – including by many people in Catalonia itself – was bound to prevail, and so it has proved.
The effect of this phoney crisis will be to strengthen the political authority of Spain’s Prime Minister Rajoy. Since I neither like nor support Rajoy I do not welcome this outcome, but there it is.
It will also significantly weaken the Catalan independence movement whose leader Puigdemont has been exposed as a charlatan. No doubt in time it will recover, but I suspect that will take longer than some people expect given the scale of this debacle.
As for Puigdemont himself, the political leader he most reminds me of is Greece’s faux leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Like Tsipras Puidgemont failed to think through what he was doing, so that like Tsipras when his bluff was called – as it was bound to be – he was left with no cards to play.
The result is the pathetic figure he cut in Brussels today.
Catalonia: Separatist politicians say Puigdemont's refusal to return to Spain could lead to their imprisonment
'This attitude could lead to all the people summoned ending up in custody,' says Joan Josep Nuet
Catalonia's former president Carles Puigdemont has been criticised for fleeing to Belgium and warned that his departure could lead to others facing prison as a result.
Mr Puigdemont, who spearheaded the region's independence bid, travelled to Belgium after Spanish Attorney General José Manuel Maza called for charges to be filed against Catalonia’s secessionist leaders.
They face up to 30 years in jail on charges of rebellion and sedition after declaring Catalonia an independent republic.
Joan Josep Nuet, who is one of the six members of the parliamentary speaker's committee due to be interrogated this week about the independence bid accused Mr Puigdemont of "irresponsibility" by leaving the country.
“This attitude from president Puigdemont could lead to all the people summoned ending up being remanded in custody because he is showing them in some way that escaping is a possibility,” he told The Telegraph.
He called for the former leader to stop performing "gestures” and instead focus on negotiating a legal referendum with Spain.....
The turmoil of the past weeks, with Catalonia proclaiming independence, and Madrid stamping it down, amid bitterness and violence, has been a reminder of dark days gone by