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Catalan Parliament rejects a “unilateral” self-determination referendum

The Parliament of Catalonia rejected a proposal to call for a “unilateral” self-determination referendum in the event that the Spanish State “blocked” the possibility of organising a vote by agreement. The motion was rejected with the votes of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) – which runs the Catalan Government – and the three parties defending the unity of Spain: the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government, and the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s). The motion supporting the idea of calling for a self-determination referendum in “a unilateral way” had been presented by the radical left-wing and independence party CUP, which has only 3 MPs in the 135-seat chamber. However it was also backed by the second-largest group, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and some of the MPs from the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA).

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07 November 2013 10:02 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- On Thursday the Parliament of Catalonia rejected a proposal to call for a “unilateral” self-determination referendum in the event that the Spanish State “blocked” the possibility of organising a vote by agreement. The motion was rejected with the votes of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) – which runs the Catalan Government – and the three parties defending the unity of Spain: the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government, and the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s). The motion supporting the idea of calling for a self-determination referendum in “a unilateral way” had been presented by the radical left-wing and independence party CUP, which has only 3 MPs in the 135-seat chamber. However it was also backed by the second-largest group, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which according to the most recent polls could almost double its seats and win the next elections in Catalonia. In addition, the motion was also partially backed by the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), which voted “yes” to most of the points but abstained on the point asking for a referendum question asking only about independence from Spain.


The CUP presented this motion while a commission of the Catalan Parliament is discussing the exact legal way by which a self-determination vote could be organised. In addition, the parliamentary commission is also negotiating on the vote’s exact question and date it should be held. It is expected that its proposal will be known in the coming days and it could even be voted on this November. In any case, the parties participating in the commission have given themselves until the end of December to approve the self-determination vote’s exact formula.

The governing CiU is participating in this commission, but in the last few weeks, party members and the Catalan Government have been trying to open dialogue paths with the Spanish Executive of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in order to find a negotiated way out, with the hope that Rajoy might finally allow a self-determination vote. In the event that Rajoy did not allow such vote, it is not known what CiU would do: they would cross that bridge when they got to it. However, the CiU has always emphasised that Catalonia’s self-determination process has to be legal and through a democratic vote. In addition, it has ruled out a unilateral declaration of independence.

Furthermore, the Christian-Democrat side of the two-party coalition CiU (UDC) – which represents roughly 25% of the Centre-Right coalition – does not support independence from Spain although it fully supports holding a self-determination vote. UDC is campaigning for a broad constitutional change in order to create a Spanish Confederation with a CatalanState in it. This has created growing tensions inside the CiU, since the largest party within the coalition, the Liberal CDC, supports independence. However in the past few days both CDC and UDC are trying to minimise those tensions, following speculations that the CiU coalition might collapse. In the light of this, since talks with Madrid are ongoing (albeit discreetly) and reducing tension between CDC and UDC is desirable, the CiU voted against the CUP’s motion.

The small-party CUP asks to call for a unilateral self-determination vote if Madrid blocks it

The CUP MP Quim Arrufat presented the motion asking to call for a unilateral self-determination vote as “the Catalan Parliament’s Plan B” if in the end the Spanish Government refuses to allow such a vote. The CUP’s text asked “to respect the people’s mandate expressed through the ballot boxes, which showed a clear majority for [Catalonia’s] right to self-determination, and therefore call for an independence referendum”. In addition, the motion was also proposing “to promote the referendum during 2014 and according to the exact date that shall be approved with the [parliamentary] Commission for the Right to Self-Determination”.

In this vein, the motion was also emphasising that this commission should be the one deciding the vote’s “question”, “which should be unequivocal, include a concept of political independence, only allow for a binary response and issue a clear mandate”.

The most controversial aspect in the CUP’s motion was the point calling for “promoting the referendum in a unilateral way, putting all the in-place mechanisms at work to make it possible”. The text added that this unilateral way should be implemented “in the event of the SpanishState’s blocking the process of allowing the Catalan people to vote on its future”. 

72.5% of the Catalan Parliament rejects the motion

The CiU and ERC, which are the Catalan Parliament’s largest groups, share a parliamentary stability agreement and both fully support holding a self-determination vote, reacted in an antagonistic way to the CUP’s motion. The CiU MP David Bonveí stated that his party was not supporting the motion and therefore rejecting it because “it is not the time” and refused to “comment on the [motion’s] points”. The CiU insisted that the roadmap for the self-determination vote has already been drafted and they are following it. Bonveí stated that this motion “was not doing the Catalan political process a favour”.

The ERC Spokesperson and party’s ‘number 2’, Marta Rovira, wanted to be clear on the issue and she emphasised the ERC’s “total support” for the CUP’s motion, “without any amendment”. According to her, the fact that parties supporting the organisation of a self-determination vote in Catalonia now vote differently regarding this motion has no importance. “We are not breaking any consensus”, she stated, while she was also sending a warning to the CUP: “it is not about seeing who is a greater supporter of independence”.

The PSC – which is federated to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – regretted that the CUP had not accepted its amendments, which were toning down the text’s tone and content. The PSC MP Ferran Pedret said that “it is clear that, despite the fact that we both have a stance in favour of the [self-determination] vote, we have different objectives”. Pedret insisted that “it is not a good option to have a vote without political agreement, with the Spanish Government, and, mainly, among Catalans”. “Now that is not at all the case”, he concluded.

The PP – which runs the Spanish Government - has strongly opposed the motion According to the PP MP Sergio Santamaria the proposal is “radical, illegal, extremist and ground-breaking”. Furthermore he added that the mere fact that such text is presented “should already concern” the Parliament. Santamaria accused those supporting independence of “sowing the base for discord instead [of sowing] the seed of concord”. “Their speech is toxic, going against living-togetherness in Catalonia” he added. Finally he highlighted that MPs “should not forget that the Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”.

Finally, the President of Ciutadans, Albert Rivera, voiced similar statements. “We cannot break the rules of democracy”, he emphasised. “Catalonia’s main enemy is now separatist proposals such as this one”, he carried on. Rivera insisted that the C’s are clearly against organising any sort of self-determination vote in Catalonia.

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  • The Catalan MPs voting on the CUP's motion (by P. Solà)

  • The Catalan MPs voting on the CUP's motion (by P. Solà)