Spain Gives Catalonia a 5-Day Warning: What Really Happened Yesterday? Majority Math Fake News

There's a lot of confusion over yesterday's announcement by Catalan president Carles Puigdemont. Did Puigdemont declare independence or not? Many are confused, especially in Madrid. Prime minister Mariano Rajoy gave Catalonia 5 days to clarify.

Spain's government has given Catalonia's separatist leader five days to say whether or not he has declared independence, government sources say.If Carles Puigdemont confirms he has, the sources say, he will be given a further three days to withdraw the declaration.Failing that, they add, Madrid will invoke Article 155 of the constitution.

Article 155 has never been used before, so we are in a kind of Brexit situation before Article 50 was triggered. The article legally exists but there are disagreements about how far-reaching it is, how it would/should work (and how quickly) in practice.Reports in Spanish media have suggested that if the Spanish prime minister were to activate Article 155 in the absence of a response from the Catalan president, pro-independence parties in the Catalan parliament would then declare independence.

What Really Happened Yesterday?

From Eurointelligence Email

As we noted yesterday Catalan separatists are increasingly pointing to Slovenia as a model for Catalan independence (after the 10-day war in 1991, Slovenia agreed a three-month moratorium on its declaration of independence during which no serious talks took place, and at eventually independence was internationally recognized).

Yesterday's events in the Catalan parliament, before a thousand accredited international press, was more like performance art. Nobody knows at this time whether Catalonia declared independence or not. In the end, Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont delivered a speech in which he first appeared to declare independence in accordance with the referendum law that had been voided by the Spanish constitutional court. Then, he proposed that the Catalan parliament suspends the effects of the declaration in order to allow a window for negotiation with the Spanish government. This left everyone dumbfounded.

Legal and political commentators largely didn't seem to know what to make of a parliament session that didn't take a vote, and the signing of a separate declaration outside the plenary. If we had to take a view of whether independence was declared or not, we would say yes. The first half of Puigdemont's speech was an enumeration of Catalan grievances with Spain's constitutional order. It felt like the preamble of the American Declaration of Independence: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another..."

As to the meaning of the suspension, it's just a ruse in our view. If the Spanish government does nothing, the Catalan authorities can carry on with independence. If the Spanish government cracks down, they can complain that the response is disproportionate as they didn't declare independence. And to compound the paradox, if the Spanish government reacts to the events as a declaration of independence, it is validating it as such. But paradoxes are a feature of formal logic, not of narrative logic. One needs a cultural anthropologist, not a political scientist, to disentangle the meaning of what transpired yesterday. And we are neither.

Today, Spain gave Catalonia five days to respond. The most likely reaction at this point is for Catalonia to take those 5 days then Madrid will activate Article 155.

At that point, anything goes.

Majority Math Fake News

Some readers keep telling me a majority of Catalans were against independence. Mainstream media, especially the Guardian keeps hammering that point, referencing polls taken in June.

Please, we just had a vote. 90% voted for independence. Here's the independence vote math

The Catalan government claims Madrid confiscated as many as 770,000 votes. Let's call it 600,000. If so, at least 2.88 million people voted, a turnout of over 53.8%.

Of the stolen ballots, what percentage were yes? Numbers suggest around 90%. Let's call it 75%. That would make it nearly 2.5 million yes votes. That's not quite a majority (assuming everyone voted), but for it not to be a majority, nearly everyone who did not vote would have had to vote, and nearly all of those would have also had to vote no.

While it's plausible to assume most of the abstainers were anti-independence, it's not plausible to propose 90% would have turned out and 90% of them would have voted no.

Simply put, at the time of the vote, a majority wanted independence. The only reasonable challenge is a dispute of the numbers posted in the above image.

Rajoy Impact

Prime minister Rajoy's attempt to halt the vote by sending in troops was likely a key determining factor leading to the Yes vote.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

2,044,038 voted "Yes", meaning 3,269,526 did not vote "Yes" - in a capaign where there was no organized "No" vote because the constitutional court had forbidden it and where the central government told voters (under pain of legal sanction) not to participate.

If we deal with the alleged 770,000 stolen votes, assume a similar percentage were cast for "Yes", then the total for "Yes" becomes 2,737,038 (i.e. another 693,000 votes) which is 51.51 per cent. of the registered vote - but given the flawed nature of the referendum and the apparent impossibility of verifying the 770,000 stolen votes number, is that really sufficient margin to implement substantial, disruptive and likely irreversible change that sees a western liberal democracy dismembered?

(If the 770,000 number overstates the stolen votes by 90,000, the assuming again 90 per cent. of those votes were cast for "Yes", the the tota for "Yes" falls to a minority of the registered vote.)

(And we have not excluded all the duplicate votes for "Yes" cast by those who voted "early and often".)

Good analysis Mish. Rajoy is screwed no matter what he does. My bet is he sends in troops to squash this and deals with the bad press as it comes.