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CiU's 'number 2' quits his post within the coalition but continues leading the Christian-Democrats

Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, who was the Secretary General of the centre-right pro-Catalan State two-party coalition CiU, quit his post on Monday in the middle of the tensions for the self-determination vote and Catalonia's potential independence from Spain. However, Duran will continue to lead the Christian-Democrat party within the CiU (UDC) and to be the CiU's strong man in Madrid. In addition, one of his closest allies within UDC, Ramon Espadaler, will take his place as Secretary General. Duran is against independence, although he supports building a Catalan State within a Confederated Spain as well as the self-determination vote scheduled on the 9th of November. However, since a wide majority of people within the CiU would vote for independence (including the Catalan President, Artur Mas), internal tensions for Duran's personal stance have increased. Furthermore, there are increasing rumours that the CiU could break up for the first time in more than three decades.

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21 July 2014 08:59 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, who was until this Monday the Secretary General of the centre-right pro-Catalan State two-party coalition CiU, has quit this post in the middle of the tensions surrounding the self-determination vote and Catalonia's potential independence from Spain. However, Duran will continue to lead the Christian-Democrat party within the CiU (UDC) and to be the CiU's strong man in Madrid, being the coalition's Spokesperson within the Spanish Parliament and the Chairman of the Chamber's Foreign Affairs Committee. In the last two years he has repeated on many occasions that he is against independence, although he supports building a Catalan State within a Confederated Spain and the self-determination vote, scheduled on the 9th of November. However, since a wide majority of people within the CiU would vote for independence (including the Catalan President, Artur Mas), internal tensions due to Duran's personal stance have increased within the coalition. In addition, there are increasing rumours that the CiU could break up and CDC (the largest and Liberal party) and UDC (the smallest and Christian-Democrat) might run separately in the next elections for the first time in more than three decades. On Monday, Duran resigned as CiU's Secretary General, a decision that was agreed with the Catalan President and coalition leader, Artur Mas. However  one of his closest allies within UDC, Ramon Espadaler, will take his place in office. Duran stated he was not quitting because of the self-determination vote and stressed once again his commitment to the vote.


Duran´s decision is major news in Catalan politics, although it has not come as a great surprise. He is one of the historical politicians, who has been in the centre of Catalan and Spanish politics during the last three decades, and has apparently taken one step backwards. On Monday, the CiU – which has run the Catalan Government since December 2010 and is actively supporting Catalonia's self-determination process – confirmed that Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida will no longer be its Secretary General, the number 2 position after the coalition's President, Artur Mas, who also chairs the Catalan Government. Duran's resignation is far from a retreat though, as he continues to lead UDC (the Christian-Democrat party within the CiU) and he will keep his offices in Madrid, namely being the coalition's Spokesperson in the Spanish Parliament and the Chairman of the Spanish Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, and thus continue being the CiU's strong man in Madrid.

Duran became the CiU's Secretary General in 2001, when the coalition became a "federation" and Artur Mas was announced to lead it after the retirement of Jordi Pujol, President of Catalonia for 23 years (1980-2003) and leader of the CiU for almost three decades. Ramon Espadaler, who is one of Duran's closest collaborators and allies within the UDC, will take the office as CiU's new Secretary General. Therefore Duran will continue to have a great say within the centre-right coalition's leadership.

Increasing tensions within the CiU

In the last two years, but particularly in the last few months, Duran has been increasingly vocal against independence and very active in trying to push for the so-called 'third way' between the current status quo and independence. The Christian-Democrat politician shares the views that Catalans have the right to vote on their own collective future and supports the organisation of a self-determination vote on the coming 9th of November. However, he would vote against independence in such a consultation, although he would also vote for building a Catalan State within a Confederated Spain. Therefore, in the last few months, Duran has increasingly become the spokesperson of conservative Catalans supporting self-determination, wanting greater self-rule powers but being against total independence from Spain, a profile matching that of significant business-owners.

Duran's personal stance against independence has provoked increasing tensions within the CiU, since the rest of its main leaders (including the Catalan President and leader of the Liberal CDC, Artur Mas) and most of its members would vote for ending the union with Spain. In fact, there have been increasing rumours that the CiU might break up, ending a continued coalition of more than 3 decades and running separately in the next Catalan elections if they happened to become a plebiscite on independence. Furthermore, significant members within the UDC quit the party in the last two years because of Duran's stance against independence, such as the Mayor of Vic, Josep Maria Vila d'Abadal (who also challenged Duran to lead the UDC in 2012).

In fact, while the CiU has shifted towards pro-independence views, Duran has often acted as a counter-weight. This offered the advantage to reach those voters having serious doubts about the benefits of independence, but it also had the disadvantage of taking credibility away from the CiU's pro-independence agenda.

Duran: "I have never been uncomfortable with the [self-determination] vote"

On Monday Duran stated he was not quitting the CiU's Secretariat General for the self-determination debate. "I have never been uncomfortable with the right to self-determination or the [self-determination] vote", he stated. In addition, he recognised some disagreements with the Catalan President and CiU's leader, but he also added that at the end that they managed to reach an agreement. In fact, despite the tensions specifically regarding Catalonia's independence from Spain, Duran has actively supported the organisation of the self-determination vote and has been one of its main advocates before the Spanish authorities. However, he was also advocating for reforming the Constitution in order to offer a better accommodation of Catalonia within Spain and therefore avoid independence.

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  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas (left) and Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida (right), on Monday (by P. Mateos)

  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas (left) and Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida (right), on Monday (by P. Mateos)