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11.21.2011

Spanish general election results. A comment from Catalonia

The results of the Spanish general election highlight how different Catalonia and the Basque country are from the rest of the country when it comes to political voting patterns. The Spanish Partido Popular (PP) won in all but 7 of Spain's 52 provinces: http://www.elmundo.es/elecciones/elecciones-generales/. These seven include all four Catalan multi-seat constituencies, and two Basque ones. Convergència won in three of the four, and the socialists just manage to retain Barcelona. In the Basque country, now that the previously banned leftist independence movement (Amaiur) has been allowed to stand, it won 7 seats (to the Basque nationalist party's five), including one in Navarre: altogether, a remarkable feat.

The distribution of gains, municipality by municipality, is well shown here: http://www.elmundo.es/elecciones/elecciones-generales/resultados/mapa_cambio.html

They won on an economic ticket (basically, the governing Socialists lost on their own, for the PP got under 600,000 more votes than in 2008) but are widely believed to plan considerable recentralisation of services. This will have an indirect language impact, almost certainly, as there are very clear correlations between the increase of the use of Catalan (at least in Catalonia) and transfer of responsibility for services from central government to Catalonia over the years).

In terms of direct pressure, the People's party 214-page manifesto states the following, when speaking about schools:

"Libertad de elección es también libertad de elegir la lengua vehicular, ya sea el castellano o cualquiera de las lenguas cooficiales. Estamos convencidos de que esta mayor libertad, además de atender un derecho fundamental, redundará en la calidad."

"Freeedom of choice is also freedom to choose the vehicular language [of schooling], whether it be Spanish or any of the other official languages. We are convinced that this greater freedom not only responds to a fundamental right, will also lead to geater quality". 

This is an undeclared war on Catalonia's unitary model, which has been praised not only for its high level of language attainment in both official languages, but also because is furthers social cohesion. Among other things, it is not central government that has the power to decide on such an issue. Furthermore, demand for initial infant schooling in Spanish, which is in the Catalan legislation, is met and the level of conflict inside Catalonia, over this issue, is virtually non-existent outside Spanish nationalist circles. Moreover, where the same party holds regional power and such a choice is offered on paper, it is non-Spanish speakers who are failing in very large numbers to receive schooling in their language despite having requested it: an estimated 129,000 last year in the Valencian region alone.

The Catalan government, with massive public support, is adamant in not being prepared to change the language-in-education model which has been in operation for several decades. and is under threat because of several highly controversial Spanish court judgments.


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