Catalonia nationhood battle flounders after vote

Updated 27 November 2012
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Catalonia nationhood battle flounders after vote

BARCELONA: Catalonia’s fight for statehood and a historic divorce from Spain floundered yesterday after a snap election left no single party in command.
Pro-sovereignty parties from right and left emerged with a clear combined majority, but the prospects of them joining in battle for a new nation were deeply uncertain.
That could be good news for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has vowed to block any break-up of Spain, saying it flouts the constitution and flies in the face of common sense.
The Spanish leader is demanding unity as he ponders seeking a bailout and struggles to overcome a deep recession, banking crisis, bloated deficit, and a 25-percent unemployment rate.
Catalan President Artur Mas called Sunday’s election two years early, pleading for an absolute majority as a mandate to organize a referendum on self-determination within four years.
But it looked like a gamble gone horribly wrong after voters turned out in massive numbers to trim his majority instead.
“Mas’ plan sinks at the ballot box,” blared the front page of Spain’s leading newspaper, center left daily El Pais.
“After asking for an ‘exceptional majority’, ending up with less than an absolute majority was a failure; but ending up far from that implies a spectacular failure,” it said.
Mas’ center right nationalist alliance, Convergence and Union, remained well ahead in the vote but its share of the 135 parliamentary seats plunged from 62 to just 50.
Republican Left of Catalonia, a left wing pro-independence party, surged from 10 seats to 21.
“We are clearly the only force that can lead this government, but we cannot lead it alone. We need shared responsibility,” Mas admitted to supporters in Barcelona after the vote.
“The presidency must be taken up, but we will also have to reflect along with other forces,” said Mas.
The Socialists, the main opposition party nationally, came third in Catalonia as their share fell to 20 seats from 28 and Rajoy’s Popular Party scored 19.
The prospect of a break-up of Spain had overwhelmed pre-election debate about the region’s sky-high public debt, savage spending cuts, unemployment and recession.
Mas, like many Catalans, accuses Madrid of raising far more in taxes from the region than it returns, a shortfall he estimates at 16 billion euros ($21 billion) a year.
Emboldened by a protest of hundreds of thousands of people in Barcelona calling for independence on Catalan national day Sept. 11, Mas decided to seek greater tax powers.
But when Madrid refused, he called the snap election.
Catalonia, which traces its origins back more than a millennium, is proud of its language and culture, both of which were suppressed under the rule of General Francisco Franco, who died in 1975.
Catalans would vote in favor of a referendum on self-determination by 46 percent against 42 percent, according to a survey before the election in leading daily El Pais.
The region of 7.5 million people now accounts for more than one-fifth of Spain’s economic output and a quarter of its exports, and boasts one of the world’s best football teams, Barcelona FC.
But Catalonia also has a 44-billion-euro debt, equal to one-fifth of its output, and was forced to turn to Madrid this year for more than five billion euros to help make the payments.
Mas’ party had never previously favored absolute independence from the rest of Spain, said Joaquin Molins, political science professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
“This first time (that) they have campaigned with the formula of a proper state has been a complete failure,” he said.


Pakistan vows to fight extremism under the banner of Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Updated 30 min 51 sec ago
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Pakistan vows to fight extremism under the banner of Shanghai Cooperation Organization

  • Pakistan hosts meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) to discuss enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation among the member states.
  • Pakistan should also enhance bilateral relationship with the SCO members as Euro-Asia is going to be an economic hub.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan vowed to eliminate terrorism and extremism in the region by working with Shanghai Cooperation Organization as the three-day meeting got under way in Islamabad.
“Pakistan fully supports and welcomes the efforts of SCO-RATS in the fight against three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism,” Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) meeting.
Legal experts from the eight member states — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan — as well as representatives of the SCO-RATS executive committee, were taking part in the meeting.
It is the first SCO meeting to be held in Pakistan since it joined the organization in June 2017. The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss terrorist threats facing the region and how to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation between the member states.
“We support the SCO consensus that as we engage in the fight against terrorism, we must respect the norms and principles of international law, UN Charter and shun double standards,” the Foreign Secretary said.
She also emphasized that terrorism cannot and should not be identified with any religion, individual countries or nationalities.
She said: “We have lost thousands of our citizens and law enforcement personnel, with many more injured. We have also suffered economic losses of more than $120 billion.”
But human and financial losses have not dented Pakistan’s determination to fight this menace, she said, adding that comprehensive efforts over the past several years, supported by a firm domestic political consensus, have helped Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a permanent intergovernmental international organization, which was founded on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai, China.
Former ambassadors, political and security analysts view the first-ever SCO meeting in Islamabad as an opportunity for the government to present its case against terrorism and extremism effectively to the international community.
Former ambassador Mohammed Ayaz Wazir said it was good for Pakistan to be hosting the hold the meeting at a time when some hostile countries have been trying to isolate it in the international community.
“Pakistan should also enhance bilateral relationship with the SCO members as Euro-Asia is going to be an economic hub and peace center of the world,” he told Arab News.
Wazir pointed out that immediate benefit of the SCO platform is that Pakistan and India have been talking to each other despite being reluctant to revive the bilateral talks on several important issues.
“For peace and development in the region, all member states of the SCO should shun their petty differences and devise cogent mechanisms of cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
Tahir Malik, professor at a public-sector university and political analyst, said it has become a global challenge to overcome the menaces of terrorism and extremism, that no country could deal with effectively acting alone.
“All SCO member states should cooperate in the fields of research and technology to promote knowledge-based economy and peace in the region,” he told Arab News.