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Left-wing independence leader wants separate lists in early elections and national unity government

The President of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, has explained his own road map to allow citizens to vote on independence from Spain and build a new state. Junqueras proposed running in immediate early elections through different pro-independence lists with shared elements and opened to independents, in order to respect diversity. The ERC leader differed from the proposal of running through a single electoral list made by the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Artur Mas. Junqueras insisted on the need to answer to the social and economic concerns of many citizens in addition to those about independence. Should they altogether obtain a majority, the different pro-independence candidatures should form a national unity government and start building the new state from day one. He particularly emphasised the need to include those who did not voted for independence in the constituent process, which should be finally ratified in a referendum.

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02 December 2014 11:28 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, has explained his own road map to allow citizens to vote on independence from Spain and build a new state. Junqueras proposed running in immediate early elections through different pro-independence lists with shared elements and opened to independents, in order to respect diversity. This formula should allow the respect for plurality and ensure unity among pro-independence parties, since the different candidatures would share part of their name, would share the common promise to declare independence, would participate in common electoral rallies and would form a national unity government, if altogether they were to obtain a majority. According to Junqueras this formula would "help maximise all the pro-independence votes" and "allow everybody to feel comfortable" and vote for a candidature that better suits them. In this scenario, they would start building the new state from day one, particularly focusing on launching basic structures (such as a Social Secutiry system and a Tax Administration) and drafting the Constitution of the Catalan Republic. The first thing to approve would be a Legal Transition Law, which should guarantee legal certainty for companies, investors and citizens while the new legal framework is being developed. Junqueras particularly emphasised the need to include those who did not vote for independence in the constituent process. "All of us are our people": those voting for independence and those voting against it; and all need to have the opportunity "to participate in the construction of the new country". Later, the new Constitution would have to be ratified through a referendum, which would validate the entire constituent process if approved. "There is no need to vote again on independence", since "no other country in the world" has done this. 


The ERC leader differed from the proposal of running through a single electoral list made by the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Artur Mas, who proposed transforming the next early elections into a 'de facto' referendum on independence. However Mas also wanted a later referendum to ratify the independence process and constituent elections called at a later stage. Furthermore, Junqueras also insisted on the need to answer to the social and economic concerns of many citizens besides independence, explaining the need to become independent to better address the urgent and pressing problems faced by companies and families. In addition, he praised diversity and immigration, as a great source of opportunities and as a value to protect. Besides, Junqueras also talked about the fight against corruption, demanding "a clean country" since the money stolen is "the money for our children's schools, for our patients' hospitals, for long-term unemployed people and for corporate tax deductions".

Mas was present at Junqueras' conference

On Tuesday evening, in front of 2,000 people gathered in the International Conference Centre Catalunya, in Barcelona, Junqueras – who is also a history professor – talked for 1 hour and 15 minutes without any written note, as if he were giving one of his university lectures. Mas was sitting in the front row and listened to the entire conference, as the ERC leader did a week ago in the Catalan President's conference. The protocol was repeated: a greeting at the beginning, a short conversation at the end and no statements to the press while leaving the auditorium. There were other leaders of the CiU, as well as representatives from the Catalan Socialist party PSC – which opposes the self-determination process, the Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA – which supported the self-determination consultation vote, as well as representatives from the recently created left-wing pro-self-determination movement MES, with leading members of the PSC. The Spanish nationalist parties did not send anyone, neither the alternative left nor radical independence party CUP. There were also many representatives of the Catalan civil society, such as the leaders of the grass-roots associations Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, Carme Forcadell and Muriel Casals, as well as the President of the Association of Municipalities, Josep Maria Vila d'Abadal.

Independence to address the main problems of companies and families 

In the first part of his speech, he talked about specific problems faced by companies and families, which the new Catalan state should address. He mentioned that energy bills are 50% more expensive in Spain than in Germany, that basic logistic infrastructure is missing to boost exports and that Catalan companies now suffer from higher financial costs due to a lack of support from public powers. This results in salary reductions, corporate profit reductions and investment reductions, while corporate debt tends to increase. In addition, families suffer from high unemployment; they see how house evictions do not solve their bank debts; and they cannot access social grants because they are scarce or they have to go through too such bureaucracy. These hard difficulties are urgent and pressing. They cannot be postponed and they have to be addressed, and independence is the best way of doing it.

Immigration and diversity as a treasure and a source of opportunities

However, Catalonia is also able of doing "extraordinary things". He talked about the level of Catalan research centres, but he extensively praised Catalonia's diversity and plurality. Junqueras talked in particular for several minutes about how immigration represents a great wealth and opportunity. He stressed that nowadays 260 languages are spoken in Catalonia, which represents a tremendous advantage in a globalised world. In this vein, he praised the advantages of building a shared project that respects diversity. Junqueras also talked about identities, which are intrinsically linked to the concept of diversity. He said that "identity is a synonym for equality", "as in mathematics, since "identity stresses what we have in common, what makes us equal". He affirmed that nowadays identities are pluralist, elastic and dynamic: nobody has a single identity, they include many geographic areas or intellectual concepts that most of the times do not coincide in a single space and these identities change over the time. 

The political process to build a new country has to be a reflexion of this since the new Catalan state should treasure this diversity and be built by a national unity government, formed by a diversity of parties. This government should build the new state from day one, if the parties supporting it were to win the elections, and should "express our country’s plurality". The government should start building basic state structures and negotiate with the Spanish authorities "as equals", not from a subordinate position. In fact, Junqueras highlighted that "experience has taught us that negotiating with the Spanish State is impossible" in the current subordination position, as it either say 'no' or, if it says 'yes', it will not honour its pacts. Therefore, independence is the only way and it has to be built  from day one.

Weeks of speculation

A week after the Catalan President disclosed his road map towards independence, this Tuesday it was the time for Oriol Junqueras, who is leading the second largest group at the Catalan Parliament. In fact, Mas and Junqueras are the main leaders of Catalonia's self-determination process and there was great speculation over the last few weeks whether they would run together in early elections to the Catalan Parliament, which are likely to be called any time soon and scheduled for this next winter or summer months. Since the last Catalan elections of November 2012 and until October 2014, Mas and Junqueras had shared a parliamentary stability agreement, although the ERC was not sitting in the Catalan Government. After Mas launched November 9's alternative participatory process to substitute the original consultation vote on independence that had been suspended by the Constitutional Court, the ERC stopped backing Mas, although they finally supported November 9's symbolic vote.

After the success of such a symbolic vote and the Spanish Government's no-to-everything attitude of the last 2 years, without making any concession, the need for a definitive vote became more pressing. Early Catalan Parliament elections seem to be the only possible formula for holding the definitive vote on independence. Both Mas and Junqueras share this conclusion, and they both support independence as the better way to guarantee a better future for Catalan citizens and their offspring. However, in the last few weeks it was public that both leaders had a different idea about how to run in these elections, how to maximise pro-independence votes and how to build the new state. Furthermore Mas is a Liberal and Junqueras a Social-Democrat, and their respective parties have very different histories and have been electoral rivals for decades. On top of this, some polls have pointed out the possibility of the ERC getting more MPs than the CiU for the first time in the current democratic regime and winning the next Catalan elections, although being very far from the absolute majority. With this Tuesday's speech, Junqueras has highlighted these differences but he has also stressed the many shared elements that those supporting independence share.

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  • The ERC leader, Oriol Junqueras, speaking during his conference (by A. Moldes)

  • The ERC leader, Oriol Junqueras, speaking during his conference (by A. Moldes)