Mas is re-elected President of the Catalan Government and promises to call for a self-determination vote
The Catalan Parliament has voted Artur Mas, leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), in as President of the Catalan Government with the votes of his own group and those of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC). Mas has been re-elected in the first vote with an absolute majority of 71 affirmative votes from the 135 MPs. The rest of the opposition voted against him for two different main reasons: either because they opposed the budget cuts despite supporting the organisation of a self-determination referendum or because they opposed Catalonia’s self-determination altogether. Mas based his campaign on two main pillars: fighting the economic recession and the public finance crisis and pursuing “Catalonia’s national transition”.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Friday, the Catalan Parliament voted Artur Mas, leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), in as President of the Catalan Government with the votes of his own group and those of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC). Mas was re-elected in the first vote as he obtained an absolute majority of 71 affirmative votes in the 135-seat Catalan Parliament. The rest of the opposition voted against him for two different main reasons: either because they opposed the budget cuts despite supporting the organisation of a self-determination referendum or because they opposed Catalonia’s self-determination altogether. Mas based his election campaign on two main objectives: on one hand fighting the economic recession and the public finance crisis and, on the other, pursuing “Catalonia’s national transition”. In order to reach the first objective, new taxes will be created and further budget cuts implemented with the aim of reducing the public deficit. However, Mas insisted that most of the fiscal measures will be temporary and that his government will try to spare the weakest people and basic public services from the biggest adjustments. In addition, bureaucracy for companies will be simplified and support for exportation will be fostered. The second objective includes a negotiation with the Spanish Government to develop a legal framework allowing the organisation of a self-determination referendum, as in the case of Scotland. If this negotiation fails, Catalonia would develop its own legal framework to call for a self-determination citizen vote. To implement this programme, the CiU and the ERC signed a parliamentary agreement earlier this week guaranteeing Mas’ re-election and the support to approve the main laws throughout the legislative term. Additionally, the agreement marked the way towards organising a self-determination vote in 2014, although it could be delayed if both parties explicitly agree on it. However, in his investiture speech, Mas opened the door to the other parties supporting Catalonia’s self-determination right to support the agreement and even to sit in the Catalan Government.
Mas is the 129th President of the Catalan Government, an office created in 1359
Artur Mas continues in office as the 129th President of the Catalan Government, an office created in 1359 and suspended twice: in 1714 and in 1938. The first time it was suspended was when Spain was made a Unitarian state, putting an end to Catalonia’s self-government, cancelling its own laws and institutions. It was not until 1931 that the Catalan Government was restored, although between 1914 and 1925, there was a similar institution but with far less power and recognition. At the end of the Spanish Civil War, Franco suspended the Catalan Government again and it was not restored until two years after Franco died. In fact, the Catalan Government was restored in 1977, even before the Spanish Constitution, as a basic agreement of Spain’s Transition to Democracy after the Fascist military dictatorship.
Appointed by the King and sworn into office on Monday
According to the schedule, Mas will be sworn into office on Monday the 24th of December, once the King of Spain and the President of the Spanish Government have signed the decree appointing Mas in office. Immediately after today’s investiture, the President of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert, communicated the result to the King of Spain. As an anecdote, she did so via email, since the King is recovering from surgery and visits are restricted. In the afternoon, Juan Carlos I congratulated Mas on his re-election and both of them wished each other Merry Christmas. The new Catalan Government will be directly appointed by Artur Mas and the Catalan Ministers will be sworn into office on Thursday the 27th of December.
This time, Mas is elected with an absolute majority
Mas was elected for the first time on the 23rd of December 2010 and took office four days after. Two years ago, Mas only received the 62 affirmative votes of the CiU, his own group. He was elected on the second vote, with a simple majority, as he did not have enough support to be elected with an absolute majority as in 2012. To facilitate the 2010 investiture, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which had previously chaired the Catalan Government (2003-2010), abstained. Now, Mas received 71 votes: 50 from the CiU and 21 from the ERC. 63 MPs have voted against the CiU leader (there were not 64 as one MP is seriously ill).
The main reasons behind opposing Mas’ investiture
The parties that opposed Mas’ investiture are: the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), the People’s Party (PP), the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), the anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s) and the radical left-wing and independence party CUP. The PSC, with 20 MPs, was opposed to Mas as he agreed on a detailed road towards the independence vote with the ERC, while the PSC proposed first to reform the Spanish Constitution and second to allow “a legal referendum”, In addition, the PSC opposed most of the budget cuts the CiU has been implementing over the last two years. The ICV-EUiA (with 13 MPs) and the CUP (with 3 MPs) support the organisation of a self-determination referendum this term, even if the Spanish Government opposes. However they have voted against Mas because they are completely against the budget cuts. Finally, the PP (with 19 MPs) and C’s (with 9 MPs) have voted against Mas because they are totally against Catalonia’s self-determination right and the call for an independence vote, despite the fact that the PP had negotiated most of the budget cuts implemented over the last two years in Catalonia with the CiU. However, this time, the MPs from the PP and C’s were the only ones not clapping after the announcement of Mas’ re-election and their leaders refused to congratulate him immediately after the vote, as the other parliamentary leaders did.
The pro-independence ERC supports Mas
The President of the ERC and Leader of the Opposition (because he chairs the second largest party in the Catalan Parliament), Oriol Junqueras, underlined the powerful image of having the two largest parties reaching an agreement on the main issues to fight the economic crisis and push for Catalonia’s self-determination process. On this last issue, Junqueras asked for a large consensus to be built around this collective project, going beyond political parties and including trade unions, business associations and social and cultural organisations. Junqueras was addressing the Catalan Parliament for the first time and gave his speech without a single note, profiting from his experience as university teacher and Euro MP. The ERC leader also talked about the new taxes created, drawing parallels with other European countries which have similar taxation formulas. In addition, he emphasised that it is because of the “unfair” deficit objectives imposed by the Spanish Government and Madrid’s fiscal redistribution of Catalonia’s resources that budget cuts are now required. Along these lines, he strongly criticised all the money the Spanish Government owes Catalonia in terms of pending investments and funds not transferred despite the current legislation. Artur Mas replied to Junqueras thanking him for the constructive tone of his speech as well as for the ERC’s willingness to take responsibility for the main decisions of the next Catalan Government.
The Socialist PSC announced they will abstain from all votes regarding Catalonia’s self-determination
Pere Navarro, the leader of the PSC, announced that throughout the entire legislative term his party will abstain from all votes regarding Catalonia’s self-determination. The reason for this is that the PSC supports this right but believes that before a vote on this matter is called, a reform of the Spanish Constitution is needed as otherwise the vote is not legal. Once the reform is achieved, the PSC would support the organisation of a self-determination referendum, in which he would defend the option of greater power for Catalonia within a federal Spain. On Mas’ offer for them to support the agreement on the self-determination right as well, Navarro stated that the CiU and the ERC “have already made the agreement, the process has been decided and the road drawn”. For this reason, the PSC will watch the process from a distance, although they will not oppose it. “We will not put any sticks in the wheels”, he stated. In addition, he proposed to the Catalan Parliament that they ask for the Constitution to be reformed. Regarding the economic crisis, Navarro stated that “Mas is forgetting about Catalonia”, being too focused on the self-determination process. Navarro indicated that their “priority” is to sort out the crisis and the people who are suffering, and he offered Mas a hand if the re-elected Catalan President “wants to set this as a priority” as well. Mas stated that the PSC’s stance is “surprising” and “very comfortable” when they announced that they will abstain from the self-determination votes, since “they will not take sides”.
The conservative PP challenges Mas to ask for the Constitution to be reformed in the Spanish Parliament
Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, leader of the PP, focused part of her intervention in challenging Mas to “have enough courage” to bring the reform of the Constitution to the Spanish Parliament in order to recognise the right to self-determination. In the Spanish Parliament, the ERC already asked for this a few months ago and it was rejected, as the PP has an absolute majority. In addition, she stated that they “will not tolerate corruption shadows” over the Catalan Government and announced they will be vigilant and “ask for responsibilities” in the case that the CiU could be affected. In addition, she asked Mas “to rectify” the situation and “not to give the key to the Government to the ERC”. In an emphatic way, Mas reminded Sánchez-Camacho that “those opposing the self-determination right are in a total minority” in the Catalan Parliament, only backed by 20% of the MPs.
The Eco-Socialist ICV-EUiA asked for an agreement on the self-determination right going beyond the CiU and the ERC
Joan Herrera, the leader of the ICV-EUiA, demanded “a large national agreement for the self-determination right” to go beyond the agreement already reached between the CiU and the ERC. Herrera lamented that both parties have “made the self-determination right smaller” with their agreement, and therefore the ICV-EUiA proposed to enlarge it and strengthen it. Herrera asked them for “their way to proceed” as “this has to be a project for all of us”, as the “citizens decided in the last elections that the self-determination right had to be led from the Parliament”. Besides, the ICV-EUiA “will not accept” the argument of the CiU and the ERC’s agreement, in which they say that further austerity measures and budget cuts are needed. For Herrera, “a radical change” is needed to avoid “the country’s suicide and the people’s intense suffering”. In this sense, he asked for “a large political front against austerity”. On top of this, the ICV-EUiA leader stated that “a democratic bailout” is needed as there is an acute loss of trust in political institutions. Herrera is proposing a “democratic transition”, to make “an accessible and transparent administration”, “with glass walls”, and to foster “participation”. Mas offered to cooperate with the ICV-EUiA regarding the self-determination process. Regarding the economic reality, Mas stated that all taxes will be increased and that the ICV-EUiA’s arguments will be finished as despite these fiscal efforts, more adjustments will still be needed.
The anti-Catalan nationalism C’s asked Mas to resign
Albert Rivera, the President of the C’s, qualified the agreement between the CiU and the ERC and the future Catalan Government as an “operations committee working to come up with a secession plan”. In addition, he asked Mas “to resign” as President, the same day he was about to be invested, as he “failed” to call for the last elections and now he wants to push for a self-determination vote “without the legitimacy”. Rivera stated that as opposed to the PSC, C’s will vote against all the self-determination measures. Mas asked C’s “to do all that is needed to adjust the legal frameworks to allow the Catalan people to exercise their self-determination right” and later “everybody will be able to have their say” for independence or against it.
The radical left-wing CUP offers their hand to support self-determination but their fist against budget cuts
David Fernández, the President of the CUP group in the Parliament, offered Mas his party’s collaboration regarding Catalonia’s self-determination process. However he asked Mas “to stop budget cuts” and to “disobey the deficit targets” imposed by the financial markets. “National freedom is impossible without social freedom”, he stated. In this sense, he has offered Mas “an open hand to support self-determination but a closed fist against budget cuts”. Mas thanked the CUP for the open hand and said that he “was expecting the closed fist” and that the two parties coincide in the realisation that “the social crisis, self-determination and the creation of a state for Catalonia are linked”. He also asked Fernández to recognise the success of social capitalism in Europe.