Here’s your proof; Spanish police in violent clashes with voters in Catalan.
In case you’ve not been following the events, the Catalonian regional government called a vote on whether or not Catalonia should become independent from the rest of Spain.
The national government, backed by the courts, declared the vote illegal. The vote has gone ahead to some degree but the police have been instructed to prevent it from happening, consequently there have been violent clashes around the “illegal” polling stations.
There might be one or two confusing elements to this for anyone viewing the events from an “AngloSphere” background with its deep history of Common Law and assertion that rights are derived from God to men and then some are delegated to the state to administer on our behalf.
The European view of the rights of man are heavily-derived from the Napoleonic Code which states that rights are handed to man from the state. A subtle but incredibly important distinction but one that manifests itself in police forces arriving in buses from outside the area to stop people from marking a cross on a piece of paper and putting it in a box.
It must also be remembered that Spain has had a rocky relationship with the concept of democracy; following the brutal civil war, General Franco was dictator from 1939 to 1975 and, following his death, there were a couple of bumps in the road back to the “for the people, by the people” concept, notably the failed military coup in 1981.
If Spain were to suffer a schism again, it is most likely to commence in Catalonia or The Basque Country, the two areas with the fiercest movements for regional autonomy. The national government is particularly sensitive to this, as Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland can attest to after being being disappointed to learn that Spain could not be counted as a supporter of her (since failed) independence movement. “Scotland first, then Catalonia. Erm, no gracias.“, was presumably the Spanish Prime Minister’s thought process.
Regardless of whether or not the Catalonian government’s vote was legal under the Spanish Constitution, it seems unlikely that the national government can keep this genie in the bottle much longer. This month it was a traditional vote using ballot boxes, paper and hosted at sports centres and schools; an activity that can be physically halted, given enough political will and a firm control of the police.
It becomes exponentially harder however to prevent a virtual ballot. Imagine a scenario where the government set up an online survey, perhaps hosted in another jurisdiction, linked to the electoral roll, mailed a one time password to each voter and then opened the website for use? It would require a different kind of police force to shut down and, even if they were successful, there’s little to prevent the same thing from occurring next month and the month after, etc. and suddenly the “Streisland Effect” becomes a political phenomenon as each subsequent denial of democracy hardens the voters to the result the national government are afraid of.
Democracy only works when when local; the further removed the elected are from those who elected them, the less credible is the claim of freedom and democracy.
The 751 EU MPs, for example, pass laws for 350m eligible voters, or one MP for about half a million voters. The UK, has 650 MPs passing laws for 46m eligible voters, or about one MP for 70,000 voters.
The accountability of a legislator to the electorate is paramount. Without the threat of losing one’s job, an important check and balance has been removed.
The Catalonians might well be one-eyed separatists but physically denying them the chance to vote on this will not change them into federalists either, quite the opposite in fact.