Just like Brexit! Spanish election in Andalusia sees locals seeking to break free

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The conservative Popular Party (PP) is set for a big win this weekend in the 109-seat chamber in Spain’s southern region — a British expat favourite. Some Spaniards are hoping to split from the regional government control in a bid for political freedom that echoes the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Juntos por Granada (JxG) party, Together for Granada in English, was born in 2017 based on the rejection of a 1980 referendum that saw Granada, alongside another seven provinces, join into one autonomous community.

Ever since, the province has been politically tied to Huelva, Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba, Malaga, Jaen and Almeria.

But backers of the movement argue it should only be tied to the latter three, with which it formed Eastern Andalusia (it has carried different names throughout history) in 1847.

The other four constituted Western Andalusia.

People in the eight provinces were asked in a referendum whether they wanted to organise themselves as one.

The Yes vote failed to reach the required 50 percent majority in the province of Almeria, garnering 42.3 percent of the electorate under a turnout of 51.1 percent.

This led to a months-long deadlock and, eventually, resulted in “a political settlement” that changed the course of things, María García from the Association for the Region of Granada (ARG) said.

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She told Express.co.uk: “The referendum was lost but legal amendments approved by Congress bypassed the will of the citizens.”

Ms García stressed GranadExit, whose name she doesn’t find important — “what matters is that they look down on us” — has limited parallels with the Catalan independence movement.

She said: “What Catalonia wants is to create a new nation.

“We don’t want to stop being Spanish.

“What we want is historical recognition as a historical territory within Spain, and to exist autonomously in the way it should always have been.”

In the UK, one of the key arguments among Brexiteers is British sovereignty.

A series of EU treaties has shifted increasing power from individual member states to Brussels.

On matters where the bloc has been granted authority, such as competition policy, agriculture, and copyright and patent law, EU rules override national laws.

The UK’s departure from the EU comes down, in large part, to decision-making power.

Three elements propel the GranadExit movement – history, budget and, crucially, decision-making power.

For Ms García, “the historic factor is what carries the most weight”.

She said: “Andalusian culture has been imposed on Granadinos, but it hasn’t stuck.”

Yet she admits that what moves most people is the inability to take the reins of what is and what isn’t done at their home.

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JxG leader César Girón told national outlet El Confidencial that 60 percent of control over the world-famous Alhambra monument, which made more than €800million before the pandemic, lies with the regional government.

He said: “Where is the Alhambra governed? It is governed from Seville.”

Mr Girón dreams of a Granada detached from the capital Seville.

While emphasising that JxG is not “pro-independence” but “pro-Granada”, he echoed Ms García in saying there is no “feeling of belonging” to Andalusia but rather “a feeling of aggregation”.

GranadExit, Mr Girón’s campaign reads, means “moving towards a new territorial order”.

It claims that for the province “to reach the levels of development and prosperity that other territories have already acquired”, set itself free from wider Andalusia by “forming a single-province autonomous community” is essential.

Ms García is certain an exit from Andalusia is not happening at least for a while.

She said: “It’s going to be very difficult but we have to start somewhere.”

And if a departure from the region ever arrives, it won’t be for Granada alone, she thinks, but alongside Malaga, Jaen and Almeria – as it once was.

Mr Girón, in a surprising show of flexibility, said: “If they tell us tomorrow that we’re getting the say we deserve within the community, if this is balanced… well, hey, if we are comfortable, why leave?”

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