The referendum of independence did indeed take place, but many breaches of the electoral rules cast doubt on its credibility.
The election day of this referendum of independence banned promised to be atypical. The vote, suspended by the Constitutional Court and which the Spanish government promised would not take place, while the Catalan executive assured that it would be held, could not be normal. As early as Sunday morning, the independence government confirmed the strange nature of the vote, allowing voters to place ballots without envelopes in opaque urns purchased on Alibaba; it also allowed voting in any office, under electoral lists suddenly declared "universal". And at the same time or almost, the police charges turned the strange election day into a national psychodrama. Sunday, the endless debate on the possibility or not for Catalan separatists to move towards their sovereignist horizon has changed in nature. The 844 wounded, according to the balance sheet of the Catalan government, and the images of citizens of all ages hit by the Spanish security forces are now at the center of the debate.
From the start, nothing worked as expected. The Mossos d'Esquadra, 17,000 men paid by the regional administration to enforce national law, never seemed to take seriously the order of justice to prevent the poll. The Catalan police department sent two or four agents to polling stations which it knew were occupied by hundreds of voters. His men had visited them several times the day before and two days before. They had seen for themselves that parents of students pretended to organize fairs and other re-entry feasts to better break the ban on the courts. In Lleida, capital of one of the four Catalan provinces, a judge opened an investigation against the Mossos for disobedience.
Targets chosen by the police
The National Police and the Civil Guard seemed to choose their targets based on their symbolic value. The first images of the Civil Guard charging against citizens overwhelmingly peaceful come from Sant Julià de Ramis. This is where the regional president, the separatist Carles Puigdemonthad to surrender, before his services decreed the possibility of voting anywhere. The polling station for Carme Forcadell, the president of the regional parliament and historical figure of independence, as well as that of former Catalan president Artur Mas have also been dismantled. For the rest, according to information from the regional government, 319 polling stations were closed out of a total of 2,315. In front of some polling centers, separatist activists raised barricades to protect them from police intervention.
The cross-accusations, which have been common since the conversion of Catalan institutions to independence five years ago, crossed a new frontier on Sunday. At midday, Carles Puigdemont recorded a speech denouncing "the unjustified, irrational and irresponsible use of violence by the Spanish state", which, he said, "will shame him eternally". In the evening, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, replied: "The only ones responsible are those who broke up living together". He also said "There was no referendum today in Catalonia."
Hundreds of thousands of people have filed a ballot in an urn, but it seems difficult to talk about a referendum. The Electoral Commission, dissolved for cause of fines against its members, was replaced at short notice by international observers from European Parliaments. The rules of the game were changed that morning. Many untraceable presidents and assessors have been replaced by volunteers. The electoral lists were substituted by a mobile application with the random connection. Some journalists and the anti-independence association Societat Civil Catalana, affirm, photos in support, to have voted several times in different offices. According to the count of the online newspaper El Confidencial, the supposed vote violates 20 of the 34 articles of the law on the referendum supposed to frame it.
At the end of the day, it seems that the match that both sides persisted in winning results in the failure of all. The Catalan government, ready for any sprain to guarantee its election, has proved unable to organize a credible referendum whose outcome it can present to the world, its true objective. His spokesman called for the "patience" of the voters: the counting will be "long".
A failure for all
The Spanish government said it was ready to assume the image of the police force seizing the polls. But the photos and videos of the violent charges shocked the opinion beyond Catalonia and Spain. Rajoy has opened a door to a dialogue that now seems more impossible than ever, announcing its intention to bring together all the parliamentary formations, which includes two Catalan independence parties, to "reflect on the future we have to face. together". Puigdemont, meanwhile, has approached a unilateral declaration of independence, announcing that he will transmit to the Catalan Parliament the results of the poll. However, a law passed by the independence majority provides, in case of victory of the "yes", that Parliament will proclaim independence 48 hours after the announcement of the results. Some forty trade union, political and social organizations in Catalonia on Sunday night called for a general strike in the region on Tuesday, in response to the intervention of the Spanish state.
The independence leaders, willingly imagining their challenge to the state as a game of chess, have never made a secret of their double plan: if they were unable to defeat the Spanish government, at least they could push it to the fault. For several months, the attitude of each party is more reminiscent of the "chicken run" races, where each rider rushing towards the other is convinced that the opponent will give up before him. This Sunday, no driver has touched the brake pedal.
This article is published in the Figaro edition of 02/10/2017. Access its PDF version by clicking here