Christian-Democrat UDC, the smaller party within the governing CiU, shakes over independence debate
The leadership of the Christian-Democrat party UDC supports Catalonia's self-determination but it is against full independence; it supports the creation of a Catalan State with greater powers than it currently has while remaining within Spain, which should embrace its plurinational nature and become a confederal country. However, an important part of UDC's base does support independence and has been trying to force an open debate and consultation on it within the party, in order to set the official party stance on this issue. Currently, the leadership's vision represents UDC's traditional stance on this issue, but the party does not have an official stance on independence yet. This situation has provoked tensions within the small party but also with their allies for the last three-and-a-half decades, the Liberal party CDC, which is the largest force within the two-party coalition CiU that currently runs the Catalan Government. UDC announced an internal consultation on 14 June to fix the party's definitive stance on this debate. However, the leadership has presented a question that avoids independence; a formulation that has created quite some controversy among UDC members.
Barcelona (ACN).- The leadership of the Christian-Democrat party UDC supports Catalonia's self-determination but it is against full independence; it supports the creation of a Catalan State with greater powers than it currently has while remaining within Spain, which should embrace its plurinational nature and become a confederal country. However, an important part of UDC's base does support full independence from Spain and has been trying to force an open debate and a vote on it within the party, in order to set the official party stance on this issue once and for all. Currently, the leadership's vision represent UDC's traditional stance on this issue, but the party does not have an official stance on independence yet, despite the debate having occupied the centre of Catalan and Spanish politics for the last two-and-a-half years. This situation has provoked tensions within the small party as some leading figures are uncomfortable about the current ambiguity. However, tensions have also risen with their allies for the last three-and-a-half decades, the Liberal and pro-independence party CDC, which is the largest force within the two-party coalition CiU that ran the Catalan Government from 1980 to 2003 and which has been running it again since 2010.
A few weeks ago, UDC, the smaller party within the centre-right CiU, announced an internal consultation on 14 June to fix the party's definitive stance on this debate, a consultation held after the municipal elections that took place on 24 May. However, the consultation would still be held before the next Catalan Parliament elections, to take place on 27 September, which have been presented by pro-independence parties – including CDC – as a plebiscite on independence, taking into account that it is the only way that Catalans can hold a free and democratic vote on this issue after the blocking and no-to-everything attitude of the Spanish Government. UDC has been running with CDC for the last three-and-a-half decades in all the elections, forming the CiU coalition. Now, things may change since the CDC has embraced support for independence. In light of the forthcoming Catalan elections, voters should know whether a vote for UDC – and if nothing changes, for the CiU – will support independence or not. However, UDC's leadership has presented a question for their internal consultation on 14 June that surprisingly avoids fully dealing with the independence issue. Such a formulation seems either a joke or a direct offence to many UDC members who wanted a clear stance on this issue. Indeed, the question has been rejected by 9 members of UDC's Executive Board and approved by the remaining 16, with one person abstaining.
Instead of proposing a clear question, the party leadership, headed by Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida – who has been leading the party for the last three decades, has proposed the following question: "Do you want UDC to continue with its commitment with the [self-determination] process, from an integrating 'Catalanist' stance and in line with the following criteria: Sovereignty, Democracy, Dialogue, Legal Security, Europe and Social cohesion?", reads the text. Then the text includes a small explanation of each of these 6 criteria. Regarding "sovereignty", it says "without ruling out or limiting the will for Catalonia's full sovereignty", and regarding "legal security" it says "ruling out a unilateral declaration of independence and a constituent process that goes beyond the legal framework". The long and complex question does not mention "independence" at any point and reproduces the current ambiguity of the party, which is already following these principles but it not clear about whether it would ultimately support independence or not in a self-determination referendum.
The leading pro-independence figures within UDC have announced they will vote "no" to the question. Antoni Castellà, who is the Catalan Government's Deputy Minister for Universities and Research and is in some way leading the pro-independence faction within UDC, has stated that the question proposed by the party leadership is "a trap". In addition, he said the party is going "backwards" with this proposal, which makes him feel "very disappointed". Historical figures from the party such as former President of the Catalan Parliament, Joan Rigol, who is currently the Co-ordinator of the National Alliance for Self-determination, and current President of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert, have announced they will vote against the leadership's proposal. In fact, last week, Rigol, De Gispert, Castellà and up to 25% of UDC's members signed a manifesto supporting independence and proposing a clear question on this issue. The party leadership criticised them for not holding an internal debate about this and starting to propose questions.
It is probable that this 25% of members will oppose the leadership's final question. However, other people are likely to join, taking into account that many members want a clear stance on independence in any case and do not like the current ambiguity and how Duran and the party leadership are handling the issue. In fact, if the "no" option wins the internal consultation, UDC's Secretary General, Ramon Espadaler – who is Duran's right-hand man and was the person in charge of writing the question – has announced an extraordinary party congress. Therefore, if UDC's leadership loses the internal consultation, there may be significant changes in the party. And if the leadership wins the consultation, it is very likely that the CiU will splinter and run separately in the next Catalan Parliament elections.