Disagreement amongst Catalan parties over unilateral referendum on independence
Catalan independence, and how to achieve it or stop it, was one of the main topics on the Spanish general electoral campaign trail on Friday in Catalonia. The candidates of the two parties of the governing ‘Junts pel Sí’ coalition, liberal Convergència (CDC) and left-wing Esquerra (ERC), presented different views on the idea of a unilateral referendum on independence, while ‘En Comú Podem’, the Catalan branch of ‘Unidos Podemos’, warned against organising, again, a non-consented consultation such as the one on the 9th of November 2014. “It wouldn’t be useful to call a unilateral referendum on independence if ‘no’ voters decide to boycott it”, said CDC candidate Francesc Homs, who is actually facing trial for helping to organise the 2014 consultation. Such a vote would be “worrying”, said Xavier Domènech, from ‘En Comú Podem’, who has always pointed out that his party, if victorious in the election, would call an official referendum. The candidate from ERC, Gabriel Rufián, stressed that they “will always support initiatives that give a voice to the citizens”.
Barcelona (CNA).- The first day of the campaign for the Spanish general election saw the governing parties in Catalonia expressing different views on the convenience of the celebration of a unilateral referendum on independence. This option, raised by the radical left-wing pro-independence CUP in the last few weeks and not directly rejected by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, is viewed sceptically by Convergència (CDC) candidate, Francesc Homs. “It wouldn’t be useful to call a unilateral referendum on independence if ‘no’ voters decide to boycott it”, said Homs, who is actually facing trial for helping to organise the 9th of November 2014 consultation.
Homs, former spokesman for the Catalan Government, said that such a referendum could lack international recognition. “How can we organise a referendum unilaterally if ‘no’ voters do not recognise it?”, he asked rhetorically. “Democracy cannot be imposed”, he regretted. According to Homs, the 9th of November vote was “extraordinary” but everyone agreed “it was not enough” because only ‘yes’ voters participated. The liberal candidate for the Spanish election said, however, that the problem is that the Spanish government is not willing to organise anything because it would have to propose “something” to Catalonia.
The coalition partner of CDC in the Catalan Government, ERC, is running on a separate ticket in the Spanish election. His leadingcandidate, Gabriel Rufián, said they will “always support initiatives that give a voice to the citizens” and allow them to express their wishes at the ballot box. However, he stressed that the idea of a unilateral referendum is not yet included in the road map towards independence that the Catalan Government is currently following. His number two on the ERC ticket, Joan Tardà, said that such a move would have to be voted upon by the Catalan Parliament. Rufián however, pointed out that the important thing is to look at what ‘En Comú Podem’ would do in the case of a conservative People’s Party (PP) majority in Madrid that continues to block any vote. “They would have to take a stance”, he said.
The candidate from ‘En Comú Podem’, Xavier Domènech said it would be “a bit worrying” for Catalonia to go back two years and organise a new process such as the 9th of November vote. “A unilateral referendum on independence is what, in principle, Mr Artur Mas called on the 9-N with a fountain pen that ended up in the History Museum of Catalonia”, he said ironically. “That referendum became a participatory process. Going back there would be a bit worrying”, he added. His coalition is in favour of organising an agreed referendum with Spain, and some polls suggest it may come second in the 26-J vote, thus ousting the Socialists (PSOE) as the second party in the Spanish Parliament. Domènech, in fact, leads the polls in Catalonia for the Spanish election, followed by ERC.
PP candidate for Catalonia, Jorge Fernández Díaz, urged voters to give them confidence again in order to “stop”, precisely, the ‘Unidos Podemos’ coalition, into which ‘En Comú Podem’ is integrated. Fernández Díaz criticised the political stalemate in Catalonia after the break-up between ‘Junts pel Sí’ and the anti-capitalists CUP, and blamed liberal CDC for this. “Convergència deserves what is happening because they sold their dignity to have anti-system allies, and now, they do not have allies nor dignity. They sacrificed their history to achieve independence and now they don’t have any history, and they don’t have independence”, he stated. Fernández Díaz warned that only a “strong victory” of the PP in Spain would keep the country stable and not in the hands of the “Spanish CUP”, as he described ‘Unidos Podemos’.
A similar view was also taken by the Ciudadanos candidate Juan Carlos Girauta, who said that pro-independence parties CDC and ERC are no longer desired partners for potential governing parties in Madrid, such as the PSOE. “The Socialists do not even want an abstention from ERC or CDC, who used to be an example of centrism and supported those governments that lacked an overall majority”, he stressed. He went on to defend his party, Ciudadanos, as a “governing party” of “guarantees” and “stability” that would help Spain develop structural reforms.
Candidate from the Catalan Socialists (PSC), Meritxell Batet, said that her party would do “its utmost” to win the election, even if polls suggest that they might end up being third in the whole of Spain, behind the PP and ‘Unidos Podemos’. “No other party can represent real change”, she said. The leader of the PSC, Miquel Iceta, added that citizens should “not trust” the leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, because he “refuses to acknowledge his past as a communist”.