Is Spain Truly a Democracy​?

By Patrick Brogan

No, it isn’t. Firstly, Spain is a constitutional monarchy. The difference between that and a democracy is clear. In Spain, like all other Western nations, it is claimed democratic practices are used to get what the majority of people feel is best for their interests. And also like in all other Western nations, this claim is false.

The situation in Catalunya sums this up pretty well and this goes back to the history of modern Spain, which I will get back to in a bit. In the present day, King Felipe VI of Spain gave a speech on the situation unfolding in the autonomous region. He said; “I assure you all that we all live in a democratic state and we must respect the law and the constitution. You know if there’s no respect for the law then there is no democratic cohabitation.” Patronising in the extreme and there are a number of other problems with his claims.

The Reaction of the Madrid Government

Firstly, the Spanish Government won’t meet with the pro-independence groups and are threatening to take away the Catalans’ autonomous status. Is this really the hallmark of a democratic state? Secondly, I seen a few people make a similar point on social media in recent days. Paraphrasing what they said, the Catalan independence vote was illegal in the sense it was not legally binding and the Spanish Government had no obligation to act on the results. However, the Catalan people were more than entitled to express their rights to vote, so the Guardia Civil were actually breaking the law by stopping this if the claim is true. The King did not mention this. Thirdly, and this is a very valid point, the current King can hark on about laws and constitutional rights all he likes, but the reality is these laws and the constitution were written up with Madrid and protecting the Royal family in mind. It wasn’t about spreading democracy. They say history is written by the winners, well the laws definitely are.

Numbers Game

Many critics of the Catalan referendum have claimed less than 40% of Catalans voted in the referendum and it wasn’t indicative of how the majority of Catalans feel. This claim is wrong. 43% of people voted and of these, over 90% voted in favour of separating from Spain. I’m not sure if these people look at the news, but the Guardia Civil brutally clamped down on the ballot boxes so it was hardly conducive to the democratic process. Also, not everyone votes, particularly in referenda, so this argument can be made about any vote. Ever.

On the topic of the Guardia Civil, they have a brutal reputation and the fact they were sent in meant it was going to end one way; in violence. They have a history of this and acted in much the same manner towards the anti-austerity movement Indignados a few years back. The whole Spanish state apparatus was against the pro-independence movement with many of their politicians arrested in the run-up to the referendum. Clearly, those in Madrid feared the majority of people in Catalunya would vote in favour of leaving Madrid otherwise they would not have acted in such a manner.

Indeed, it wasn’t just Spain that feared the break-up. Many politicians internationally have said they support the Spanish position, if not the violence used. The Madrid Government even had help from Google as they shut down many apps used by the independence movement.

Fascist Past

In theory anyway, Germany and Italy had their fascist regimes destroyed by the Allied Forces. Spain never had such an event. The Spanish dictator Francisco Franco handed power back to the Bourbon royal family in the shape of Juan Carlos I as a result of his death. The new king was hand-picked by Franco. Franco’s legacy is a troubled one for many in the Spanish state, not least in places like the Basque country and Catalunya.

Franco asked Hitler for help suppressing his opponents and this is when Hitler tried out the new tactic of blitzkrieg. This devasted many towns and cities and inspired Picasso’s Guernica after the unbridled destruction seen there.


But, there has been no separation in mentality from fascist Spain to the new state. The ideology has never been challenged and the idea that those in Madrid are so how above the rest of Spain lives on. Obviously, I’m not referring to everyone in Madrid. Worryingly, there have been displays by members of the public harking back to the Franco days as a result of what happened in Barcelona and the surrounding areas. There were scenes in Madrid where people were singing the old Fascist anthem Cara al Sol and giving Nazi salutes. Is it any wonder people want to separate from this?


These factors and more are contributing to Catalunya striving for independence. One thing not mentioned is the economic situation. Catalunya pays a disproportionate amount of tax and receives very little of it back. In effect, the Catalans are like indentured servants to the Madrid based political system. Slowly, but surely, this movement and has gained momentum but the reaction from the Spanish Government might be the greatest PR gift they could have asked for.


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