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Christian-Democrat leader introduces new initiative to promote a Catalan State within Spain

After months of speculation, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, the leader of the Christian-Democrat party UDC – which is the smallest force within the governing  two-party centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU – presented his new political initiative to build an alternative option between the current territorial model and independence from Spain. Duran has been advocating for the creation of a confederated Catalan State within a more decentralised Spain, which would recognise Catalonia's nationhood, respect Catalan language and launch a fairer inter-territorial fiscal scheme for Catalan interests. With the platform 'Construïm' ('We build', in English), Duran is now trying to reach new potential voters "who feel orphaned from any political party"; voters worried about "social issues" and the economy, "beyond the debate about independence". With early elections on the horizon, the initiative is likely to represent the split of the CiU, which has been the main actor of Catalan politics for the last 35 years.

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24 November 2014 09:57 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- After months of speculation, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, the leader of the Christian-Democrat party UDC – which is the smallest force within the governing  two-party centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU – presented his new political initiative to build an alternative option between the current territorial model and independence from Spain. Duran has been advocating for the creation of a confederated Catalan State within a more decentralised Spain, which would recognise Catalonia's nationhood status, respect Catalan language and launch a fairer inter-territorial fiscal scheme for Catalan interests. With the platform 'Construïm' ('We build', in English), the veteran Christian-Democrat politician is now trying to expand UDC's small support and reach new potential voters "who feel orphaned from any political party"; voters worried about "social issues" and the economy, "beyond the debate about independence", he said on Sunday.


The official aim of the initiative is "to foster debate" but it is likely to represent the split of the CiU. This coalition has been the main actor of Catalan politics for the last 35 years and it has played essential roles in Spanish politics as well, supporting the governments of Felipe González and José Maria Aznar and voting for key reforms and laws. In addition, it ran the Catalan Government between 1980 and 2003, and it has been running it again since late 2010. As of 2012, a large part of the CiU's leadership openly started to express their support for independence, particularly those from the Liberal party CDC, which is led by the current Catalan President, Artur Mas. This started to cause tension with Duran and those who were reluctant about splitting up from Spain.

CiU is likely to split up

With early elections on the horizon, which will be transformed into a plebiscite on independence, the CiU cannot run with an ambiguous message about this issue and with its 'number 2', Duran, being against independence. Therefore, the most likely scenario is that Duran and a part of the UDC would split from the Liberal CDC and Mas.

An initiative to expand the UDC's electoral base

Furthermore, 'Construïm' would be open to people from other parties beyond the UDC but it will embrace Christian values, said Duran. The Christian-Democrat politician asked to go beyond "partisanship" and "black or white" answers regarding independence from Spain, in order to embrace "a wide range of greys" and build a society based on "diversity and nuances".

Duran also criticised the Spanish authorities' attitude towards the independence demands. He particularly accused the Spanish Government of committing "a very big mistake" by supporting the prosecution of the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, the Vice President, Joana Ortega, and the Minister for Education, Irene Rigau. In fact, Ortega is a UDC member and one of Duran's closest people.

The challenge of going beyond anti-independence conservative Catalan-speaking voters

The Christian-Democrat leader would try to gather voters who want greater powers for Catalonia but are doubtful of, or directly reject, independence from Spain. Duran has been working on raising his profile as the main spokesperson for the sectors of Catalan society against independence, particularly among businesspeople and professionals. However, his profile is very much associated with conservative stances and Catalan nationalism.

Duran lacks support among left-wing voters, who are against his conservative stances on issues such as gay marriage, the fight against poverty and the management of public services. In addition, he has been leading UDC without interruption for the last three decades, despite the party having been involved in some corruption scandals. With the current citizen demands for a democratic regeneration, Duran's lasting leadership and elitist lifestyle are likely not to be appreciated by many potential voters. Furthermore, many people with origins from outside Catalonia (which represent 70% of the Catalan population), particularly those born in other parts of Spain, could be reluctant to vote for Duran since he made controversial statements in the past about public subsidies given in poorer regions such as Andalusia and Extremadura.

In the event of early elections, 'Construïm' could be used an electoral platform going beyond the UDC, in which leading figures could run to offer their support. However, his potential electoral base remains small, particularly if 'Construïm' were to run on its own, without forming a coalition with other forces defending greater powers for Catalonia within a federal or confederated Spain. The only parties that openly defend this are the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), and the recently-formed alternative left party Podemos. It is not likely that the PSC would form a coalition with Duran, considering his conservative stances. And it is totally unthinkable that Podemos could combine forces with a Christian-Democrat leader that has been in politics since the times of the democratic transition.

Therefore 'Construïm' will become the electoral platform for the conservative voters that are supporting the so-called 'third way' between independence and the current 'status quo'. These voters are not a lot but they are quite influential, since they represent a significant share of Catalonia's bourgeoisie and employers. In fact, some of the main businesspeople in Catalonia were present in Duran's presentation, such as the CEOs of Abertis and Gas Natural Fenosa, as well as the leaders of the main business associations.

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  • Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida next to the Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega (by ACN)

  • Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida next to the Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega (by ACN)