Monday, November 26, 2012
SECESSION! Exit poll shows Catalonia votes overwhelmingly for a referendum
by Clifford F. Thies The exit poll for today's snap election in Catalonia, an autonomous region within Spain with its capital at Barcelona, indicate that the "pro-referendum" parties have scored a big victory. The free market-oriented CiU Party of Artur Mas, President of the region, which called the snap election, is returned as the largest single party, although with a few less seats. Emerging as the second largest party is ERC, a left-of-center pro-independence party. Just as CiU has eclipsed the federalist People's Party of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as the main center-right party of the region, so too has ERC eclipsed the Socialist Party as the main center-left party. Together with two other, small parties, the pro-referendum block looks to have something like a two-thirds majority in the regional parliament. Relegated to small party status are the regional affiliates of the three main federalist parties of Spain: the conservative People's Party, the Socialist Party and the United Left Party. Already there is speculation that the Basque Country and Navarre, in the north, will be seeking independence. However, in the case of the Basque regions of Spain, the economic interest in re-negotiating its relation with the central government is not compelling. In Catalonia, taxes are collected by the central government and the money "returned," less a rather huge handling fee. The Basque regions are under a different arrangement, collecting and spending their own funds. The CiU, which has always been ambiguous concerning its preferred relationship with the central government, might be satisfied with conversion to the fiscal system already in place in the Basque regions. But, once the genie is let out of the bottle of independence, you don't know what will develop. There is also speculation about whether an independent Catalonia would automatically be a member of the European Community, and would it use the Euro. (Our advice, hardly needed by President Mas who is himself a fine economist, is to follow the example of Norway, which has safeguarded its sovereignty while participating in those parts of the EC that represent the common interest of all Europeans.) And, showing just how serious this talk of independence is, there is also vibrant debate concerning the future of FC Barcelona (that's their beloved soccer team).