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Left-wing independence party ERC requests to join Catalan Government to protect self-determination vote

The left-wing independence party ERC asked the Catalan President to join the Government "in order to protect the [self-determination] consultation vote" scheduled on the 9th of November. The Catalan President, Artur Mas, stated that they will talk about it in the coming days to strengthen the unity around November's vote. In addition, the Catalan Socialist party (PSC) also asked Mas to talk to them if the Constitutional Court ultimately bans the consultation vote. The People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, accused Mas of promoting "a soft dictatorship" in Catalonia. The green-socialist and post-communist coalition ICV stated they want a consultation vote with "credibility". The Spanish nationalist and populist C's said that Mas' time is finished and asked for early elections. Finally, the alternative left and radical independence party CUP advocated ignoring Spain's institutions and voting on the 9th of November by any means.

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16 September 2014 09:37 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- On the second day of the Catalan Parliament's most important annual debate, called the General Policy Debate, the left-wing independence party ERC asked the Catalan President to join the Government "in order to protect the [self-determination] consultation vote" scheduled on the 9th of November. The governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU had already offered the ERC this possibility on many occasions in the last two years, but the ERC always rejected it. Now, a few days before the Spanish Government will file appeals to the Constitutional Court that intend to stop the independence vote from happening, the ERC is willing to strengthen the Catalan Executive to organise such a vote on the agreed day. The Catalan President and CiU's leader, Artur Mas, stated that they will talk about it in the days ahead, with the objective being to strengthen the unity of action of those supporting November's vote. However, Mas said that the consultation vote is "already protected" by the current Government. The rest of the parties supporting the self-determination vote also stressed their commitment with November's vote, these being the green-socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA and the alternative left and radical independence party CUP. Therefore, there is a broad consensus among the CiU, ERC, ICV-EUiA and CUP, representing 6 parties ranging from the Christian-Democrats to the Alternative Left and Greens, going through the Liberals and Social-Democrats, to organise a self-determination vote on the 9th of November with sufficient democratic guarantees. The Spanish nationalist parties, the conservative People's Party (PP) and the populist C's, strongly criticised the Catalan President, accusing him of setting up "a soft dictatorship" and insisting that he is "politically dead". The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) stressed that Catalonia has the right to self-determination but that a vote on such an issue has to be agreed with the Spanish Government. They defended their Constitutional reform to better fit Catalonia within Spain, a reform totally rejected by the PP, which holds an absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament.


However, the debate was not only on Catalonia's self-determination, but also on all the other policies and government actions. Left-wing parties were critical of the budget cuts undertaken since 2011, stressing that inequalities had increased. The PP also shared this criticism and said that Catalonia's economy is in jeopardy, despite it leading Spain's recovery. The governing CiU stressed that no further budget cuts can be undertaken and they stressed that economic indicators show that Catalonia is starting to recover from the economic crisis. In addition, all the opposition parties underlined the need to fight corruption cases.

On Monday, the Catalan President addressed the Catalan Parliament with the opening speech of the General Policy Debate. On Tuesday, it was the turn of the political groups, whose leaders individually assessed the situation and engaged in bilateral discussions with the Catalan President. On Wednesday, the political parties will vote on the resolutions and initiatives resulting from this three-day debate.

The ERC wants to sit in the Catalan Government

The main news from the debate was the offer made by the President of the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, who leads the second largest group in the Parliament. Junqueras, who shares a parliamentary stability agreement with the CiU, asked Mas to join the Catalan Government "in order to protect" November's independence vote. "If the Government calls us, not only we will happily join [the cabinet] but it is also our desire [to join the government] in order to protect the consultation vote". Furthermore, the ERC insisted that November's independence vote will have "all the democratic guarantees", which "were confirmed by the thousands of people who demonstrated" on Catalonia's National Day. Last Thursday, 1.8 million people formed an 11km-long mosaic to support November's vote. In response, the Catalan President told Junqueras that "the consultation vote is already protected" by the current cabinet. However, he stated that in the days ahead they will talk about the possibility of joining the Catalan Government in the framework of Catalonia's answer to the likely ban from the Constitutional Court to November's vote.

The PSC asked to be included in the self-determination debate if the Constitutional Court bans the vote

The First Secretary of the Catalan Socialist party (PSC), Miquel Iceta, asked Mas to also talk to them if the Constitutional Court finally bans the consultation vote, in order to participate in the discussions about the answer for such a ban from Catalonia. The PSC supports Catalonia's right to self-determination but rejects November's vote. However, they would be willing to support such a vote if it contained a question previously agreed with the Spanish authorities, which has rejected to talk about this issue during the last two years. In addition, Iceta confirmed that the PSC will back the Catalan Law on Consultation Votes, which will be the legal tool to call November's self-determination vote. However, the PSC argues that such a law cannot be used for November's vote and this is one of the reasons they are against it. On top of this, Iceta insisted on the Constitutional reform proposed by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), to which the PSC is federated. The Catalan President stressed that Catalan parties have been trying to reach an agreement with the Spanish Government on the self-determination vote for the last two years, but Madrid's answer has always been "no". Mas also emphasised that the Spanish Government is also rejecting the constitutional reform proposed by the Socialists. Therefore, the Spanish Government and the PP do not want to reach any agreement and simply want to impose the current status quo. Faced with this, Catalonia has to continue with its own project, to which the PSC is welcomed, added Mas.

The PP states that Catalonia is "a soft dictatorship"

The leader in Catalonia of the conservative and Spanish nationalist People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, accused Mas of promoting "a soft dictatorship" in Catalonia since it is imposes the views of some on the entire population. Sánchez-Camacho insisted on playing down last Thursday's massive demonstration – which gathered 1.8 million people according to the local police – by insisting that "not all the 7.5 million Catalans were there". She repeated that November's vote is "illegal" and that the Spanish Government will file appeals against it to stop it. In addition, the PP MP draw a situation where the Catalan economy is in jeopardy, despite facts that show it is leading Spain's recovery. The Catalan President criticised the PP's leader for not recognising the things that work in Catalonia and picturing a totally different reality. In addition, Mas accused the PP of carrying out a wide and strong recentralisation process over the last few years. In fact, Mas argued that without the PP's attitude over the last decade, there would not be so many Catalans supporting independence. Furthermore, he insisted that the PP will not be able to stop Catalans from casting their vote.

The ICV-EUiA pledges its support for a self-determination vote in November with guarantees

The President of the parliamentary group of the green-socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA, Joan Herrera stated they want a consultation vote with "credibility" and guarantees. Herrera argued that the card of organising a consultation vote should not be wasted with a vote that does not have enough guarantees. Furthermore, he also insisted the ICV-EUiA will support November's vote but criticised Mas for increasing social inequalities and for not having made enough efforts to fight corruption and fraud. Herrera deeply criticised the budget cuts in recent years and accused Mas of having increased inequalities in Catalonia. He also criticised Mas for having reduced the salaries of public employees, who have become "political hostages", he said. The Catalan President shared Herrera's concern in the need for a self-determination vote with guarantees. However, he rejected Herrera's views on social policies and public services. Furthermore, Mas strongly criticised the ICV-EUiA leader for having talked about "political hostages".

The C's focuses on corruption and fraud scandals

The President of the Spanish nationalist and populist C's, Albert Rivera, considered that Mas' time is finished and asked for early elections. Rivera said that Junqueras has "betrayed" Mas since now the ERC pushes the Catalan Government to an illegal independence vote or to early elections. In the case of early elections, the ERC could overtake the CiU, according to almost all the polls, and the C's would significantly increase its MPs. In fact, Rivera also asked Mas to call for early elections. The C's also asked Mas to testify in the parliamentary commission investigating public corruption, particularly focusing on the fraud confessed by the former Catalan President, Jordi Pujol, who led the CiU from the mid-1970s to 2003. Mas accepted Rivera request to talk in front of a parliamentary commission investigating the Catalan Government's public contracts, although he reminded everybody that such a commission had already been created a few years ago and nothing wrong was found.

The CUP proposes ignoring whatever the Spanish authorities say

Finally, the alternative left and radical independence party CUP advocated ignoring Spain's institutions and voting on the 9th of November by any means. Two MPs from the CUP, Quim Arrufat and David Fernández, split their speech time and stated that Spain's laws should not be obeyed any longer if the Spanish authorities try to stop Catalans from voting. They also criticised the economic "mafia" that is ruling the country, according to them, and advocated to clean society and public institutions of corruption. The Catalan President insisted once again on the need to organise a legal self-determination vote, with enough democratic guarantees. Mas also stated that sometimes maximalist stances have to be abandoned for more practical ones.

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  • Oriol Junqueras, leader of the ERC, addressing the Catalan Parliament on Tuesday (by P. Mateos)

  • Oriol Junqueras, leader of the ERC, addressing the Catalan Parliament on Tuesday (by P. Mateos)