A small but important election

!cid_36AFBEE9-7D02-4DC5-99A8-213CF9496143@HomeBY ED FELIEN

Barcelona.  In January, the president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, called for new parliamentary elections to be held in Catalonia on Sept.27.  Mas has called for Catalan independence since 2012, and he has declared that this new parliamentary election will be a plebiscite on Catalan independence.
If his coalition wins 68 seats in the 135 seat regional government, then Mas has said that would be enough for a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain.  Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in response, “No one is going to break up Spain or turn citizens in Catalonia into foreigners in their own country. This government is not going to allow it.”
Mas expected his coalition to coast to an easy victory in the May municipal elections in Barcelona, but he was shocked by the victory of a party that was a coalition of Greens, independent leftists and Podemos that was strong enough to elect Ada Colau as mayor. Colau is part of Podemos and a former Indignato (the indignant ones, similar in philosophy and tactics to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S.).  She went from being arrested by the Barcelona police for trying to stop evictions to being head of the city government.
According to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now on June 5, “Ada Colau has vowed to fine banks with empty homes on their books, stop evictions, expand public housing, set a minimum monthly wage of $670 per month, force utility companies to lower prices, and slash the mayoral salary.”
In her interview with Amy Goodman, Ada Colau talked about an Emergency Action Plan and 30 proposals to guarantee jobs, insure basic rights and fight against corruption by eliminating privilege and by making government more transparent.
Podemos, the Indignatos, Greens and other unaffiliated leftists held a conference on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5 and 6, to hammer out a program they could agree on for the Sept. 27 election.  They call their new coalition Catalunya si que es Pot—which means, roughly, “Catalunya, yes, it’s possible,” or “Catalunya, yes we can” —which is a lot like Obama’s “Si, se puede”—“Yes, we can.”
Among the 100 proposals for change, they asked for an end to the austerity cuts, taxes on the rich, a progressive property tax, creation of public commercial and investment banks, reduction of greenhouse gases by 30% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050, no nuclear power, no fracking, a 35-hour work week with penalties to employers for overtime, open data from government and free software.
Lluis Rabel is the No. 1 candidate for Catalunya si que es Pot in the upcoming elections. Legislative seats are apportioned based on the percentage each party wins.  He is president of the Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Barcelona and was very instrumental in the election of Ada Colau.  He is a translator.
The second name on the list is Gemma Lienas.  In 2010, the Department of Employment of the Generalitat de Catalunya awarded her the medal Francesc Macia al Treball for her role in Catalan literature and for her fight for women rights.  She has published 90 books (mostly children and young adult books written with social and gender perspective) and numerous non-fiction essays—among them: “Live without them, men are not essential”; “Rebel or whore, but not submissive”; “I want to be a bitch: Against regulation of the sex trade”; and “Pornography and wedding dresses.”
Polls are mixed on whether Catalans support independence from Spain. Most recent polls indicate dwindling support, but last November Artur Mas staged a non-binding referendum in which 80% of the voters supported an independent Catalonia; but only about 40% of the voters participated. Mas has formed a coalition with traditionally left parties to call for steps to be taken toward independence if separatist parties win a majority of seats.  As of the last poll on Sept.7, Mas’ coalition had 33% of the vote, but even with just 33% of the vote he could elect 51% of the members of the legislature.  That total has diminished from a high of 49% a month ago.  Catalunya si que es pot has been increasing from 12% to 19%.  There are members of Catalunya si que es pot who would support steps toward independence, but their principal concerns are the economic, ecological and social conditions of working people.
It seems Artur Mas’ real agenda is the preservation of Artur Mas as president. He has positioned himself as the indispensible architect of independence. He waves the Catalan flag to dazzle the voters. He promises freedom and independence, but he wants to continue the same austerity policies that have impoverished the workers.  He says his political aims are beyond political parties, but that is because he wants to continue the same politics that have created the present intolerable conditions.
Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”  The election in Catalonia on Sept. 27 will measure how long this particular scoundrel can get away with it.

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