Spanish flag-waving underpins Rajoy’s tough line on Catalonia

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At Jose Luis Sosa-Dias’s factory near Madrid, lengths of bright red and yellow polyester are being steamed and pressed as workers rush to rebuild stocks of the Spanish flag after a huge surge in sales in the last few weeks.

Patriotic displays of the flag are rare in Spain, where it still reminds many of the Franco dictatorship. But Catalonia’s bid for independence has fired up national sentiment, and with it demand for flags.

Such displays reflect a rising nationalism that is encouraging Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to stick to his tough line against Catalonia. It also makes it harder to reach a compromise with the region.

That nationalism was on display when hundreds of thousands of Spanish unionists staged protests in Madrid and Barcelona in support of unity after Catalonia’s illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1 triggered a constitutional crisis and clouded prospects for Europe’s fifth-largest economy.

According to a monthly official opinion poll, the level of concern among Spaniards over the situation in Catalonia increased threefold in September compared with August.

And while a majority says they feel they have both national and regional identities, 66 percent support Rajoy’s refusal to offer more autonomy to the country’s 17 regions, according to the poll.

Among voters who back Rajoy’s People’s Party, this number jumps to 86 percent.

He said the government could therefore conclude there are gains to be made from taking a hard line.

 

 

Source:  News agencies