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Catalan President asks the Socialists not to run away from self-determination

The parties supporting Catalonia’s right to self-determination regret the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC)’s decision to step down from giving active support to this political process. Last week the PSC’s leadership decided not to back any initiative in favour of a self-determination vote that has not been agreed in advance with the Spanish Government, which totally rejects the idea and even refuses to talk about it. The President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, asked the PSC “not to get off the train”, stressing the party’s tradition of defending Catalan language, culture, identity and self-government. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) consider the PSC is now against a self-determination vote.

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19 November 2013 04:46 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The parties supporting Catalonia’s right to self-determination regret the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC)’s decision to step down from active support of this political process. The PSC’s leadership decided last week not to back any initiative in favour of a self-determination vote that has not been agreed in advance with the Spanish Government, which totally rejects the idea and even refuses to talk about it. At the last party congress and last Catalan elections, the PSC was openly backing Catalonia’s right to self-determination and was proposing a “legal” vote, “agreed” with Spanish authorities. Catalan political parties are therefore reacting to the PSC leadership’s change of mind regarding the right to self-determination and the organisation of a vote on this issue.


The Catalan President asks the PSC “to listen to the people”

The President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, asked the PSC “not to get off the train”, stressing the party’s tradition of defending Catalan language, culture, identity and self-government. Mas asked them to “listen to the people’s voice”, “when it asserts its right to decide [on its collective future], when it wants a further degree of freedom, of sovereignty”. The Catalan President asked “those who have doubts and get off the train just when things are starting to get important” to reconsider their stance. Continuing with the train metaphor, Mas insisted that “now is not the moment to get off the train”; “now it’s time to be on it, everybody with their own contribution, with their nuances, with their own way of seeing things, but it’s the time to be on it”. “The greater our numbers – irrespective of whether some travel on the first, second or fourth wagon – the greater strength the train will have”, he stated.

Parties backing self-determination vote regret the PSC’s change

The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) – which is the second largest party in the Catalan Parliament – considers that the PSC no longer holds an “ambivalent” stance and it is now against a self-determination vote. The ERC’s Spokesperson, Anna Simó, regretted that for the PSC, “Catalans’ right to self-determination starts and ends with the will of the Spanish Government”. According to her, the PSC rejects calling a self-determination vote, since it leaves the initiative in the hands of the Spanish Government.

The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) also lamented that the PSC had chosen “to defend the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE)” instead of its own project of building a true federal and pluri-national Spain. “This [project] can only be furthered by a self-determination vote”, added the ICV-EUiA’s National Coordinator, Dolors Camats. The Eco-Socialist leader considered it “logical” that many PSC members and MPs are “disappointed” in the party leadership’s decision.

Spanish nationalist parties ask the PSC for greater moves

Meanwhile, the two parties against Catalonia’s right to self-determination, the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government – and the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) say not to fully trust the PSC’s change of mind. The PP leader in Catalonia, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, asked the Socialists “not to falsely close” the self-determination debate. The Spanish Conservatives also requested the PSC to withdraw from the Catalan Parliament’s commission analysing and proposing legal frame-works for calling a self-determination vote. The Spokesperson of the C’s, Matías Alonso, stated that the PSC is no longer “a credible party”, since it has given “too many blank cheques to secessionists”. Alonso stressed the PSC’s “lack of coherence and credibility”.

The PSC’s leadership has changed the party’s stance on self-determination

In order to stop tensions with the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – to which the PSC is federated after the two parties merged in 1977 to run together in Catalonia, the Catalan Socialists decided to run away from supporting a self-determination vote. In addition, the PSC is also aiming to stop the loss of votes towards Spanish nationalist Ciutadans. However, the decision contradicts the party’s previous stance, as well as its resolution from its last party congress and the promises made during the last Catalan elections, held in November 2012. For this reason, a few PSC MPs disagree with the decision taken by the party’s Secretary General, Pere Navarro, and they are seriously considering breaking ranks and even leaving the party.

Critical PSC MPs might break ranks and support Catalonia’s self-determination

Last weekend, the PSC organised a ‘National Council’ – which is its most important decision-making body in between party congresses – in order to fix the new position and end internal criticisms. The party left the meeting with greater division, despite an apparent consensus with Navarro’s proposal having been approved by 83.5% of the attendees’ votes. Firstly, only 70% of the 430 representatives attended the meeting, which is an unusually low figure (this means Navarro’s plan was only explicitly backed by 60% of the National Council). Secondly, Navarro was unable to find a compromise solution to integrate the views of the critical MPs. Thirdly, these rebel MPs are still voicing their criticism and still consider breaking ranks in the next Catalan Parliament vote on self-determination, scheduled on the 4th December.

On this day, MPs will vote on petitioning the Spanish Government to transfer the powers to call a referendum to the Catalan Government, following Article 150.2 of Spain’s Constitution. Latest rumours indicate that some rebel MPs could even abandon the PSC parliamentary group days before this vote, since they are convinced that the request based on Article 150.2 totally respects the legal framework and would allow a legal self-determination vote (it is a formula similar to the one used in Scotland’s case). If they were to leave, the PSC could drop from being the 3rd largest party in the Catalan Parliament with 21 MPs to being the 4th one, since the People’s Party (PP) has 20 MPs.

Many prominent PSC members have already left the party

Internal tensions within the PSC have been constant for the last three years. However, they have never been so intense, nor the risk of an internal split so great. This friction comes at a time when the party’s electoral base has decreased considerably, since most of its voters have abandoned it. The most Spanish nationalist of their voters have already left and are now supporting Ciutadans (C’s) or the PP. However, the most important withdrawals in terms of numbers come from pro-Catalan-stance voters. They have also been joined by  many significant party members who have left the party. The PSC has almost halved its electoral support in the last 3 years, particularly in rural Catalonia and Barcelona city. These areas are where PSC voters traditionally back more pro-Catalan identity stances. In fact, many prominent PSC figures – at municipal and Catalan level – have left the organisation and cancelled their membership since they consider the party leadership no longer respects internal debate and it is a long way from a true defence of Catalonia’s self-government and identity. Some of the most significant withdrawals have been by historical leaders, such as former Catalan President (2003-2006) and party leader, Pasqual Maragall, who was also Barcelona Mayor before and during the 1992 Olympics and led the city’s urban transformation in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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  • Artur Mas (centre) at a book presentation, when he asked the PSC "not to get off from the [self-determination] train" (by P. Mateos)

  • Artur Mas (centre) at a book presentation, when he asked the PSC "not to get off from the [self-determination] train" (by P. Mateos)