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Understanding local democracy in Catalonia: From formally institutionalized processes to self-organized social referenda on independence

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This article identifies and describes key aspects of two movements that sought to empower local democracy in Catalonia from 2008 to 2010 and they are useful to understand the political process leading to the informal referendum on independence held on 9 November 2014. First, it analyses the institutional actions of the Catalan government to promote local democracy in 2008. Second, it focuses on the organizational processes of the local referenda on Catalan independence held in 2010, conducted exclusively by self-organized and ideologically oriented citizens in each locality. In 2008, there were 874 instruments created by local governments to promote the participatory process, while from 2009 to 2010 more than 500 localities held local referenda on independence. Both movements are extensive enough to be interpreted as an important turning point in recent Catalan history. This article will link both processes by highlighting their main features, tracing their historical roots and explaining their relationships, in order to gain a better understanding of the political conditions that finally led to the government-organized independence referendum in 2014.
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Keywords: Catalonia; independence; local democracy; local self-government; participation; public policies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Barcelona

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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  • The International Journal of Iberian Studies (IJIS) is the academic journal for scholars from around the world whose research focuses on contemporary Spain and Portugal from a range of disciplinary perspectives. IJIS is interested in history (20th century onwards), government and politics; foreign policy and international relations.
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