Pro-independence civil society organisations back November's alternative consultation but demand early elections
The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, which are the civil society associations that organised the massive pro-independence demonstrations in 2012, 2013 and 2014, have given their support to the alternative consultation vote proposed by the Catalan Government but on the condition of early elections taking place within the next three months. On Sunday, the ANC and Òmnium gathered 110,000 people (according to Barcelona local police) in Catalunya Square, three times more than the pro-Spanish-unity demonstration that took place in the same place a week earlier. In front of a pro-independence crowd, the two civil society organisations demanded unity of action from the parties supporting self-determination. They called for "a massive mobilisation" in the alternative participatory process of the 9th of November, being "the first round" of the early elections, which should become a 'de facto' referendum on independence.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, which are the civil society associations that organised the massive pro-independence demonstrations in 2012, 2013 and 2014, have given their support to the alternative consultation vote proposed by the Catalan Government but on the condition of early elections taking place within the next three months. In addition, they demanded unity of action from the parties supporting self-determination, in a demonstration that gathered 110,000 people (according to Barcelona local police) in Catalunya Square on Sunday; this is three times more than that of the pro-Spanish-unity demonstration that took place in the same place a week earlier. The ANC and Òmnium called for "a massive mobilisation" in the alternative participatory process of the 9th of November, being "the first round" of the early elections, which should become a 'de facto' referendum on independence. In this vein, in front of a large pro-independence crowd, the two civil society organisations demanded that the Catalan President, Artur Mas, call those early elections within the next three months. These elections should produce "a true democratic mandate" to declare independence if parties supporting this option clearly win. The civil society organisations refused to say whether pro-independence parties should run separately in the elections or form a single coalition, although they should all clearly pledge their support to independence. A few political leaders were present at the ANC's and Òmnium's rally, representing the main parties supporting independence. Representatives from the Catalan Government, the Liberal CDC – the largest party within the governing centre-right pro-Catalan States two-party coalition CiU, the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, the Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA and the alternative left and radical independence party CUP, all backed the need for early elections after hearing the ANC and Òmnium. Furthermore, all of them except the ICV-EUiA stated they are willing to talk about ways to strengthen the unity of action.
On Sunday, Catalonia's civil society associations supporting independence proved once again their capacity to mobilise people and speak loud and clear. Sunday's event had initially been called to campaign for the original consultation vote scheduled on the 9th of November, but it was redesigned after last week the consultation vote was cancelled and replaced by an alternative participatory process taking place on the same day, in order not to disobey the Constitutional Court's temporary suspension. Therefore, after two weeks of disagreement among the parties supporting the self-determination road map, the ANC and Òmnium had the opportunity to outline their stance regarding the new and diluted consultation vote, as well as the possibility of calling early elections and transforming them into a de facto referendum on independence. And they did so.
The ANC and Òmnium had already been meeting with several political leaders over last week and their support for the alternative and decaffeinated consultation vote on the 9th of November had already been announced through informal channels. However, Sunday's event was the opportunity to confirm this support in public and to make it conditional to certain requests, mainly the call for early Catalan Parliament elections within the next three months. "We want a new parliament by the beginning of Spring", which should declare independence if there is a majority of MPs backing this option, stated the ANC's President, Carme Forcadell. This means elections taking place in February at the latest.
November 9, "the first round" of the early elections
The main civil society organisations said they understood the new consultation vote on the 9th of November to be "a massive mobilisation" that had to become "the first round of plebiscitary elections", added Forcadell. The ANC and Òmnium pledged to turn the 9th of November's participatory process into a success if parties were working anew to rebuild the unity of action.
In such an alternative consultation vote, Catalans will be able to still cast a ballot on whether they would like an independent Catalan State or not. However, the Catalan Government admitted that the obstacles put forward by the Spanish authorities prevent such a consultation vote from having enough democratic guarantees and therefore it will not provide a clear democratic mandate. Despite this fact, it will become another great mobilisation for Catalonia's right to self-determination. In addition, the Catalan President underlined that the "definitive referendum" would be early elections, transformed into a 'de facto' referendum on independence.
"Parties have done a great job so far and we want to thank all of them for that" stated Òmnium's President, Muriel Casals. However, "we expected that they would walk together until the end", referring to the lack of consensus on whether to carry on with the original self-determination consultation vote or not. "We demand that parties rebuild the unity of action to take the [self-determination] process forward" she added. The civil society representatives ask Catalan political leaders supporting self-determination "to sit once more around the same table".
"Ballot boxes to get a clear mandate and independence if a majority" wants so
"We want a single plan, clear, with clear deadlines and shared by all, based on the unity of parties and civil society: ballot boxes to get a clear mandate and independence if a majority of citizens express so through the ballot boxes", summed up Casals. Òmnium's President also insisted that the 9th of November mobilisation will be "the first round" of the plebiscitary election on independence.
The rally took place in Catalunya Square, in downtown Barcelona. The widely-known singer songwriter Lluís Llach, who was a symbol of the fight against the Franco dictatorship, played the piano when a series or actors and representatives from the civil society read the Catalan Parliament's Declaration of Sovereignty, approved on the 23rd of January, 2013, after the mandate from the Catalan elections of November 2012. In addition, Llach also put music to the poem of Miquel Martí i Pol 'Ara Mateix' ('Right Now'), which repeats "tot està per fer i tot és possible" ("Everything is to be done and everything is possible").
Politicians ask for early elections as well
After the demonstration, the leader of the Social-Democrat ERC, Oriol Junqueras, who shares a parliamentary stability with governing CiU, said that early elections have to be called "as early as possible" in order to follow "the democratic mandate" and declare independence. However, he did not confirm whether they will run together with other parties, such as the Liberal CDC from the CiU. The 'number 2' of the CDC, Josep Rull, was also present in the ANC's and Òmnium's rally. Rull stated that parties "should sit together again to talk" and insisted that CDC is open "to agree on everything", referring to electoral coalitions. A representative from the alternative left CUP, Marc Sallas, said that they are willing "to talk to everybody" but he criticised the parties that are fostering "sterile delays" on the independence agenda. In addition, he said that they will work to make the 9th of November's mobilisation "a democratic tsunami".