"Sardinian independence must be the final outcome of a process of building a lot of freedoms"

Michela Murgia

INTERVIEW. Michaela Murgia leads Possible Sardinia, a pro-independence coalition that aims to break classical Italian two-party system in the island's institutions · Recent opinion poll forecasts as much as 24% of the votes for Murgia: "Ours is a maj

Is it high time for an end to the Italian two-party system in Sardinia and for the emergence of a majority-minded pro-independence political party? Only time will tell, but writer Michela Murgia's (Cabras, 1972) coalition Possible Sardinia (SP) is pushing hard on its way to the February 16th Sardinian election. A relevant indicator: this week's opinion poll forecasts that Murgia could get 24% of the votes, once abstentionists and those undecided are left aside. A figure absolutely unknown for the island's pro-independence parties: in the most recent Sardinian election, the best placed pro-independence candidate (Gavino Sale) only achieved 3% of the votes. Nationalia has spoken to Murgia and to another of SP's leading candidates, Omar Onnis (Nuoro, 1969), who are in Barcelona this week in order to establish links with Catalan civil society and pro-independence organizations.

Onnis and Murgia are members of pro-independence party Republic Project (ProgReS), one of SP's three constituent members. The coalition is completed with two civic lists: Gentes and Comunidades, who bring together people who may be pro-independence or may not, and who usually hail from leftist political traditions. Those people have a common ground: Sardinia's right to self-determination. "It is a civil contract", Murgia says. SP candidate always insists on the differences between her proposal and what she dubs the old Sardinian nationalism: "Our purpose is to establish a hegemonic project. It is not made against other pro-independence parties, but wants to gain ground from Italian parties".

Murgia's popularity in Sardinia and the big disappointment with traditional parties are factors that may explain why SP has right now such high expectations. In fact, ProgReS's first will was to skip the current election and work instead in an expansion process throughout Sardinia that could lead the party to contest the 2019 election. "But the two-party system has already been broken" in Sardinia, Murgia points out. In the most recent Italian election, Beppe Grillo's 5 Stars Movement achieved ​​a spectacular 27% of the votes in Sardinia. "This showed us that Sardinians were ready for an alternative" to the two major parties, the Democratic Party (PD) and the People of Freedom (PdL). "But this alternative", Murgia goes on, "should not be Grillo, because he is yet another Italian party. That is why we could not wait for five more years, we had to contest the election now".

Getting Sardinia to be a political subject again

Murgia considers that if SP is able to bring together all those discontent people, the pro-independence movement will enjoy a great opportunity to cement itself into the Sardinian political arena: "Our goal in the next five years is to normalize the pro-independence project and the very word 'independence'", a word that Murgia admits that still causes "fear" among some Sardinians. But the candidate recalls that a recent university study shows that up to 40% of the islanders are in favour of a sovereign Sardinia. An example, she says, that things are rapidly changing there, as Sardinian self-esteem and self-consciousness have advanced in recent years.

This is actually one of SP's most emphasized ideas: Sardinians should be recognized as a political subject. A condition that, according to Omar Onnis, had already existed in previous times: "Until the unification of Italy", he says, "Sardinia was recognized in certain aspects as a political subject". But the island ended up being Italian, "and the Sardinian ruling class thereafter accepted to be an intermediary between its territory and the newly established state. Thus, Sardinia was minorized, and ceased to be a political subject". SP wants to reverse this process: "We want to be normal Sardinians, not 'Sardinian special Italians', as we have been instilled by Italy", Murgia explains. Those "normal Sardinians" should build their own country: "For us, independence is not an ideology, but it must be the final outcome of a process of building a lot of freedoms. This is a little like eating cherries: you pick one and you want two more. We consider independence to be a process where we gradually cut the threads that control us: culture, energy policy... until the time arrives when no more threads are left".

From autonomy to a nation in Europe

Sardinia indeed enjoys a certain degree of self-government -a narrow one, in the eyes of pro-independence partisans- since 1948, when a Statute of Autonomy was passed. The Statute reform has been debated several times, but it has never arrived. "Autonomy has finally become a fetish and also a burden, a weapon of mass distraction", Onnis regrets. When asked about a possible negotiation on extending Sardinia's powers through a Statute reform, Murgia is clear: "Rewriting the Statute makes no sense. We will only reform it in order to draft a Sardinian Constitution". Until then, Murgia wants to "use all the autonomy we have to see what the limits" imposed by the current Statute are, "and it will be clearly shown that they are not enough for Sardinia. It's like The Truman Show: in order to realize that you have been restricted, you need to get to touch the wall. Only then you see that it is impossible to go beyond".

While Onnis remarks that SP's "project core" is to provide Sardinia with a "project for self-determination" in which "partners are no longer other pro-independence parties only, but the whole Sardinian society", Murgia emphasizes its international dimension. SP candidate explains that she is establishing links with other pro-independence parties in Europe, including Basque Country's Bildu, the Scottish National Party (SNP), and Catalonia's four parties supporting the Catalan 2014 referendum: CiU, ERC, ICV-EUiA and CUP. "This amounts to a narrative of a European network, something that Sardinian nationalism has never been able to do up till now", Murgia says. SP candidate quotes words by SNP's John Campbell when she travelled to London in order to meet him: "In Scotland, we did 40 years ago what you are doing now in Sardinia". "It's a great message for the Sardinians", Murgia believes, "as it means that what Scots are doing now will be eventually possible for Sardinian generations who are now alive". And thus she concludes: "I hope to reach independence before I die".

David Forniès