Half a mil­lion marched


HE Au­gust 17 ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Barcelona and Cam­brils, in Cat­alo­nia, have re­minded Spa­niards of the hor­ror of this type of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence. From 1959-2011, Euskadi Ta Askata­suna (ETA), a Basque ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, car­ried out hun­dreds of at­tacks (killing 829 peo­ple), aimed at forc­ing the cre­ation of a sep­a­rate Basque state.

ETA com­pletely dis­armed in 2017, but Spain was also the tar­get of al-Qaeda bomb at­tacks on four Madrid com­muter trains in March 2004, right be­fore na­tional elec­tions that led to the So­cial­ist Party vic­tory against the in­cum­bent party, the Par­tido Pop­u­lar (PP).

TDo ter­ror­ist at­tacks shake up vot­ers? Will the 2017 at­tack lead to po­lit­i­cal fall­out for Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy’s PP? Will it change sup­port for the Cata­lan re­gional gov­ern­ment led by Car­les Puigde­mont? While ETA, al-Qaeda and Is­lamic State are dif­fer­ent ac­tors with dif­fer­ent goals, our re­search on the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences of ETA ter­ror­ist at­tacks gives a clue how Spa­niards might re­act to the lat­est at­tacks.

In a re­cent pa­per, we ex­am­ined the im­pact of ETA ter­ror­ist at­tacks that took place while Spain’s lead­ing sur­vey or­gan­i­sa­tion (Cen­tro de In­ves­ti­ga­ciones So­ci­ológ­i­cas) was con­duct­ing in­ter­views to as­sess cit­i­zens’ po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion. The ar­guably ran­dom oc­cur­rence of the at­tacks with re­spect to the sur­vey field­work lets us com­pare the re­ported po­lit­i­cal be­hav­iour of peo­ple sur­veyed a few days be­fore the at­tacks with in­ter­views from nearby cit­i­zens sur­veyed a few days af­ter­wards. We find that peo­ple did not plan on chang­ing the di­rec­tion of their vote after the at­tacks, which sug­gests they would not “pun­ish” the in­cum­bent party for fail­ing to pro­tect cit­i­zens from this sort of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence.

How­ever, Spa­niards in­ter­viewed after the ETA at­tacks ex­pressed a greater in­ten­tion to go out and vote. Voter par­tic­i­pa­tion re­ported in sur­veys is not the same as ac­tual par­tic­i­pa­tion, but our de­sign and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion strat­egy brings us close to es­ti­mat­ing the causal ef­fect that a ter­ror­ist at­tack would have on vot­ing be­hav­iour.

Other types of vi­o­lence also in­flu­ence po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion

A num­ber of schol­ars have doc­u­mented in­creased po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion of vic­tims of civil war vi­o­lence, crime or ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence. Our study shows an in­crease in re­ported po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion among peo­ple across Spain, not just vic­tims of the ETA at­tacks.

We find that the im­pact on po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion is greater when civil­ians were tar­geted, as op­posed to at­tacks against mem­bers of the po­lice or mil­i­tary.

This sug­gests vot­ers tend to em­pathise more with their fel­low civil­ians. The im­pact is also stronger among peo­ple who did not par­tic­i­pate in pre­vi­ous elec­tions, in­di­cat­ing that the at­tacks mo­bilised non-vot­ers.

Will there be any im­pact on Cat­alo­nia’s in­de­pen­dence bid?

In Cat­alo­nia, there were many signs of in­creased civic en­gage­ment in the hours after the at­tacks in Barcelona and Cam­brils.

Thou­sands con­gre­gated in Les Ram­bles and Plaça de Catalunya to show sol­i­dar­ity with the vic­tims and con­demn the at­tacks. Last Mon­day, thou­sands of Mus­lims marched in Barcelona against ter­ror­ism and in sup­port of its vic­tims.

There have also been spon­ta­neous dis­plays of sup­port for the Cata­lan po­lice and their han­dling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

This Satur­day, half a mil­lion cit­i­zens marched in Barcelona, along with key po­lit­i­cal play­ers. A clear mes­sage guided the march: No tenim por (“We are not afraid”) The aim was to show po­lit­i­cal and so­cial unity against ter­ror­ists. There have also been ral­lies in the small towns of Cam­brils and Ripoll. This en­larged civic en­gage­ment and po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion is con­sis­tent over­all with what we ob­served in our quasi-ex­per­i­men­tal re­search on the ETA at­tacks. Our re­search sug­gests the at­tacks are un­likely to lead to sig­nif­i­cant changes in how peo­ple see po­lit­i­cal par­ties and how they vote.

Ter­ror­ist at­tacks make peo­ple more po­lit­i­cally en­gaged

Some an­a­lysts ar­gued that the 2004 al-Qaeda at­tacks in Madrid, which left 193 dead and more than 1 700 in­jured, trig­gered a change in be­hav­iour among vot­ers that led to the oust­ing of the in­cum­bent party. Those at­tacks were fol­lowed by mis­in­for­ma­tion and de­cep­tion – the PP had to ad­mit that al-Qaeda, not ETA, was be­hind the at­tacks. This makes it hard to know whether vot­ers pun­ished the party be­cause of the at­tacks or be­cause of the mis­in­for­ma­tion that fol­lowed.

Our re­search on ETA sug­gests ter­ror­ist at­tacks are likely to make peo­ple more po­lit­i­cally en­gaged and sup­port the demo­cratic sys­tem.

While the ef­fects of the cur­rent at­tack might fade by the time a new elec­tion takes place in Spain, the boost in civic en­gage­ment and trust in demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions seen in Cat­alo­nia in the af­ter­math is highly con­sis­tent with our study. The key take­away? If ter­ror­ists are look­ing to un­der­mine democ­ra­cies they are achiev­ing the ex­act op­po­site.

Laia Balcells is an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity

Ger­ard Tor­rats-Espinosa is a doc­toral can­di­date in so­ci­ol­ogy at New York Univer­sity A LEADER of the na­tion­al­ist Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) party said on Mon­day that US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump should de­vote more en­ergy to gov­ern­ing and less to tweet­ing, but she in­sisted that his un­pop­u­lar­ity in Ger­many is not harm­ing her party’s stand­ing ahead of next month’s elec­tion.

The AfD party’s an­ti­im­mi­gra­tion, anti-Is­lam stance has often been com­pared with Trump’s po­si­tions, and mem­bers wel­comed Trump’s elec­tion and some of his poli­cies.

Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many hopes to en­ter par­lia­ment in the coun­try’s Septem­ber 24 elec­tion, in which con­ser­va­tive Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel is ex­pected to win a fourth term.

“If I had a wish list, I’d like Don­ald Trump to tweet less, clean up his own shop more and deal more humbly with his gov­ern­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Alice Wei­del, one of AfD’s top lead­ers, said in Ber­lin.

She also blamed the me­dia, how­ever, for paint­ing what she called an “ab­so­lutely ex­ag­ger­ated” pic­ture of Trump.

Polls show AfD on track to top the 5% of votes needed to en­ter par­lia­ment, but short of the sup­port lev­els it reached fol­low­ing the mas­sive mi­grant in­flux to Ger­many in 2015 and last year.

Mi­gra­tion has re­ceded as a po­lit­i­cal is­sue in Ger­many.

Wei­del in­sisted that Trump’s often-crit­i­cised per­for­mance has “no in­flu­ence” on AfD’s pop­u­lar­ity. “We are com­pletely in­de­pen­dent of what Don­ald Trump does,” Wei­del said. “I can draw no par­al­lels.”

AfD drew crit­i­cism on Mon­day for re­ported re­marks by Wei­del’s co-leader in the elec­tion cam­paign, Alexan­der Gauland, who said the Ger­man gov­ern­ment’s com­mis­sioner for im­mi­grants’ in­te­gra­tion could be “dis­posed of in Ana­to­lia”.

The com­mis­sioner, Ay­dan Ozoguz, has Turk­ish roots. Gauland was also re­fer­ring to com­ments in which she said that “a specif­i­cally Ger­man cul­ture is, be­yond the lan­guage, sim­ply not iden­ti­fi­able”.

Merkel’s spokesper­son, St­ef­fen Seib­ert, said Gauland’s com­ments made no sense – not­ing that Ozoguz comes from Ham­burg, not Turkey.

But Wei­del de­fended them, say­ing “you can cer­tainly ar­gue about the style but (Gauland) is right in terms of sub­stance”. – AP


CON­NECT: A Mus­lim man hold­ing a Span­ish flag and a plac­ard read­ing ‘I am Mus­lim, this crim­i­nal group does not rep­re­sent us. Is­lam is a re­li­gion of peace and se­cu­rity’ shakes the hand of a woman dur­ing a march against ter­ror­ism.

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