Catalan radicals to vote 'Trojan horse' MPs into Spain parliament

by Daniel BOSQUE
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The radical Catalan separatist CUP party is running a campaign entitled "Ungovernable"

After numerous protests in the Catalan separatist stronghold of Girona, Carla Costa is mulling other ways of attacking Spain, including the idea of voting radical pro-independence MPs into parliament to act as a Trojan Horse.

"We have to attack on all fronts," explains the 22-year-old student who has multiple piercings and lives in this northeastern town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Barcelona.

"We must get to the heart of the beast and destroy it from within."

And that is why, during Sunday's general election, she will vote for the radical anti-capitalist CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy), the most extreme faction within the Catalan separatist movement.

When Spaniards return to the ballot box on November 10, it will be their fourth general election in as many years and the latest bid to put an end to the deadlock ensnaring Spanish politics.

The CUP is contesting a national election for the first time, with the tiny regional party hoping to capitalise on unrest unleashed last month when Spain jailed nine Catalan separatist leaders over a failed 2017 independence bid.

Like Barcelona and other cities in Catalonia, Girona was caught up in a wave of mass protests, which saw thousands peacefully demonstrate by day before chaos would erupt at night, with masked youths fighting running battles with police.

Best known for its Gothic cathedral and medieval streets featured in the global TV phenomenon "Game of Thrones", Girona was where veteran independence advocate Carles Puigdemont served as mayor before going on to become the Catalan regional president.

Two years ago, Puigdemont staged an ill-fated referendum and issued a short-lived independence declaration in defiance of Madrid, triggering Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

- 'We will be ungovernable' -

For the CUP radicals, Sunday's election has one clear aim: to block the formation of a government which could create political stability in Spain.

Their campaign is based on a one-word slogan -- "Ungovernable".

Spain has been beset by political uncertainty for years and April's election did little to resolve that.

Although Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists won, they fell short of a majority and could not form a government, triggering a fresh vote that looks set to bring more of the same.

The CUP is hoping it will win enough support to see some of its candidates elected to central parliament.

"We will go to Madrid to cause a short circuit within this non-functioning system," says Non Casadevall, a professor who is running for a seat in the Girona province.

"What we want to do is to blow it up from the inside," he said. "Until we are free, we will be ungovernable."

Casadevall says he represents "the voice of the street" which rang out loud and clear following the October 14 verdict in a resounding demand for the right to self-determination.

Although the unrest has eased, Girona remains defiant, with countless Catalan independence flags fluttering from buildings and balconies, competing for space with slogans demanding freedom for political prisoners and the right to a republic.

Under one of the many bridges spanning the Onyar River, three makeshift dummies dangle in the wind, each emblazoned with a different word: "democracy", "freedom" and "the right to protest".

- Strategy of attrition -

Although polls suggest CUP will only win a handful of seats, it has embraced the separatists' motto of "constant mobilisation".

This has proven an effective strategy for "wearing down" the central government in Madrid, said Elisenda Paluzie, head of the influential grassroots Catalan separatist organisation ANC.

A similar idea was raised by former Catalan official Toni Comin who called for action to "financially wear down" Madrid to force it to negotiate, even if that meant harming the wealthy region's economy.

These days, few remember the early optimism when Sanchez came to power in June 2018, thanks in part to support from the separatists.

He exercised restraint during last month's protests but, as rivals accused him of going soft on the separatists, he toughened his rhetoric.

Should Sanchez's Socialists win as expected on Sunday, he will face the same problem as last time: the need to cobble together enough support to be sworn in. But this time he has no chance of support from the separatists.

"There is too much bad feeling, too much disappointment, it will take a long time to get over," says Jose Munoz, a Socialist supporter at a Sanchez rally near Barcelona.

"Before the (2017) independence bid, the idea seemed both inclusive and appealing, but now it's become exclusive," admits Munoz, who says he briefly flirted with the idea of separatism.

"Now I feel that if I don't think like them, I'm not a real Catalan."

The radical Catalan separatist CUP party is running a campaign entitled "Ungovernable"

Girona has long been a bastion of support for the Catalan separatist movement

Under a bridge over the Onyar River, three makeshift dummies have been 'hanged', each emblazoned with a different word: "democracy", "freedom" and "the right to protest"

Girona's Gothic cathedral and medieval streets featured in the global TV phenomenon "Game of Thrones"