Left-wing Catalan independence ERC doesn’t back new budget and pushes for early elections
The left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, which has shared a parliamentary stability agreement with the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU for the last 2 years, is pushing to begin a new political period. The ERC’s leader, Oriol Junqueras, met on Thursday with the President of the Catalan Government and CiU’s leader, Artur Mas, and confirmed to him that they will not back the new budget for 2015. The evening before, Junqueras had presented his road map for the next few months. The ERC wants early elections now, which would become “constituent elections” if a majority of pro-independence parties were to win. Furthermore, the ERC prefers to run alone, not in a shared electoral list. If Catalans voted for a majority of pro-independence parties, the new Parliament would start building the new state’s basic structures and drafting a Constitution, which would have to be later ratified through a binding referendum.
Barcelona (ACN).- The left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, which has shared a parliamentary stability agreement with the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU for the last 2 years, is pushing to begin a totally new political period. The ERC’s leader, Oriol Junqueras, presented its road map for the next few months on Wednesday evening and on Thursday morning he met with the President of the Catalan Government and CiU’s leader, Artur Mas. With this meeting, the Catalan President is starting his round of talks with parties supporting self-determination in order “to listen to everybody” and, in less than 2 weeks time, make a decision on early elections, as he announced on Tuesday. After November 9’s massive symbolic vote on independence, Junqueras is pushing for calling elections as soon as possible, which would become “constituent elections” if a majority of pro-independence parties were to win. The ERC would not run in a single list grouping all pro-independence parties together if there is not a total agreement on the steps to build the new independent state and the calendar for doing so. Without the agreement, the ERC would prefer to run alone, after many expert voices had been suggesting an alliance between the ERC and the Liberal party within the CiU, CDC, full of prominent and widely-respected figures, such as writers, university professors and NGO leaders. If pro-independence parties won the elections, the new Parliament would elect a “government of national unity” that would start working on independence “from day one” by building the new state’s basic structures, such as a social security system and a tax administration, and negotiating with the international community. In addition, the new Parliament would start drafting a Constitution. Once these steps were completed, independence from Spain would be formally declared and a binding referendum would be held to approve the new Constitution of the Catalan Republic. With this perspective in mind, the ERC insisted that they will not back the Catalan Government’s new budget for 2015, since elections should be held in the next few weeks and the new parliament would have to draft a budget for an Autonomous Community of Spain or for a new independent State. The ERC already announced it would not vote for an Autonomous Community budget, and it confirmed so to Mas on Thursday.
The leaders of Catalonia’s two main parties, who both support independence from Spain, met on Thursday morning at the Catalan Parliament. Artur Mas announced on Tuesday he would take the next few days to hold a wide round of talks with the parties supporting self-determination in order to gather views and proposals. Based on those talks, the Catalan President will announce his own road map on the 24th of November, as was announced this Thursday. Formally, the talks are to explore future scenarios and whether parties are ready to transform early elections to the Catalan Parliament into a plebiscite on independence from Spain, since the Spanish Government has been unilaterally blocking all the possibilities to hold a mutually-agreed referendum on this issue, as was done in Scotland or Quebec. However, in practical terms there are three main elements to discuss: firstly, the convenience of holding early elections to use them as a de facto referendum on independence; secondly, how to run in those elections, whether to do it through a shared electoral coalition or separately; and thirdly, how to pass the budget for the next few months in order to guarantee that, meanwhile, public services keep running.
The ERC is not ready to support the 2015 budget
After meeting with Mas, Junqueras did not say if they had reached any agreement. However, the ERC’s leader highlighted “the positive feeling” present during the meeting and “the mutual understanding” of each other positions. Junqueras explained that he had outlined to Mas the ERC’s road map for the next few months, which aims to achieve full independence from Spain. He also added that both of them agree on the fact that elections will be needed to undergo the next step in Catalonia’s self-determination process.
However, Junqueras told Mas that they will not vote for the Catalan Government’s budget proposal for next year, because they consider them “unviable”. The new budget for 2015 would represent cutting off €4 billion of revenue, while the Catalan Government posted a €27.41 billion revenue and €29.31 billion spending for 2014. In addition, Junqueras does not foresee abstaining during the vote for the approval of the budget, in order to allow the CiU to pass the new bill backed by a simple majority. The CiU has 50 MPs and it needs 18 additional votes to reach the absolute majority, while the ERC has 21 seats. Besides, the ERC’s President emphasised that the Spanish Government is obliging the Catalan Executive to undertake such a drastic budget cut, which is not realistic and will have a devastating effect on basic public services, which are entirely managed by the Catalan Government, such as healthcare, education and social care.
Junqueras prefers to run separately although he does not rule out a shared list
Regarding the elections, Junqueras insisted that they are proposing calling elections “immediately”. However, Mas does not consider this point to be the very first priority, according to the ERC’s leader. In addition, Junqueras added that, if elections are not held before March 2015, Catalan representatives would have to wait until early 2016 because of the elections already planned at Spanish level (municipal elections in May 2015 and general elections in November 2015).
According to Junqueras, the ERC wants to reach an agreement about “what” to do next, “how” to do it and “when”, in order to have clear goals, a clear road map and a clear calendar. If there is such a detailed agreement about the exact steps and calendar to build Catalonia’s independent state, the ERC would run in a shared coalition, particularly if such a coalition is supposed “to maximise” the number of pro-independence parliamentary seats.
The ERC’s leader is not expecting to meet with Mas again in the immediate days, although he does not rule out this possibility. Nevertheless, Junqueras announced that, after Mas has announced his own road map on November 24, they will hold a meeting.