President Mas, the victory of persistence

Finally, after having tried in 2003 and 2006, Artur Mas is invested President of the Catalan Government. The economist has been working in the public sector since 1982. He was a type of Catalan Prime Minister between 2001 and 2003, in the last government of the CiU’s historic leader Jordi Pujol. In fact, Pujol elected Mas as his successor, an image that Mas finally abandoned. During these 7 years leading the opposition, Mas built his own profile and is perceived as a serious, efficient and moderate politician.

CNA / Patricia Mateos / Gaspar Pericay

December 23, 2010 09:29 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition, Convergència i Unió (CiU), was finally invested President of the Catalan Government by the Catalan Parliament. It was Mas’ 3rd attempt. The economist born in 1956 will become the 129th President of the Catalan Government on Monday, the 27th of December. In these 7 years leading the opposition against the Left-Wing governing coalition, Artur Mas has been able to build his very own profile, finally abandoning the image of Jordi Pujol’s heir. Mas built his political career under Pujol’s rule: he was CiU’s candidate to become Mayor of Barcelona in 1991 but failed. In 1995, he was elected Member of the Catalan Parliament and Pujol appointed him as Catalan Minister for Public Works. In 1997, he switched departments and became the Catalan Minister for Economy and Budget until 2001. Then, Pujol declared Mas his successor and appointed him “Head Minister”, a sort of Prime Minister coordinating the Government’s action and policies. In 2003, he was CiU’s candidate to become President of the Catalan Government. Despite getting more seats, CiU did not manage to get enough parliamentary support to form a government. CiU went to the opposition and Mas become its leader. In 2006, CiU clearly won the elections in number of seats and in votes. However, again, they were not able to get the government due to a lack of support in the Parliament; it was the bitterest period of Mas’ political life. However, Mas was perseverant and in 2010, he finally managed to win with enough seats and authority to become the 129th President of the Catalan Government.

Artur Mas did not resign after not reaching the Catalan Presidency in 2003 and 2006. He persevered and went through a long winter in the opposition. It was a hard winter, away from the government, as Mas saw himself as the winner of the 2003 and, especially the 2006, Parliamentary elections. These 7 years have been hard for Mas and his entourage. However, these 7 years have also contributed to building a clear profile for Mas. In 2003, Mas was mainly seen as Jordi Pujol’s heir. Now, in 2010, he is perceived as the logical and expected next Catalan President. Mas resisted and meditated, and never lost his temper. The patience, perseverance and daily work have finally been rewarded. On Monday, the 27th of December, he will be elected the 129th President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Catalan Government. He has been preparing for the post since 2001, when it was clear that he would lead Convergència i Unió (CiU) after Pujol’s retirement.

In fact, Artur Mas is an experimented politician. In 1987, he held his first elected post, as Barcelona councilman for CiU. However, Mas had already been working in the public sector since 1982. He started with a rather technical profile, working in the Catalan Ministry for Trade, Consumption and Tourism to bring foreign investment to Catalonia. Mas is fluent in French, as he studied in the Lycée Français of Barcelona, and he also has a good level of English. In this period, he held his first political post, when he was appointed Director General of Commercial Promotion within the same Ministry. Then, in the Municipal elections of 1987, he was elected Barcelona’s City Hall’s councilman. In 1991, CiU gave him his first leading role, as CiU’s candidate to become Barcelona’s Mayor. He lost against Pasqual Maragall, the historic Mayor of Barcelona during the 1992 Olympics and later Catalan President in 2003. In fact, in 2003, Mas and Maragall competed again for the same position, the Catalan Presidency this time. Mas got 4 more seats but Maragall got more votes and had better relations with other parties’ leaders. After weeks of negotiations and looking for parliamentary support from other groups, Maragall became the 127th Catalan President. Mas had to wait 7 years, as a similar situation was repeated in 2006.

In the 1995 municipal elections, Mas was no longer CiU’s candidate to become Mayor of Barcelona. Miquel Roca i Junyent, one of the fathers of the Spanish Constitution and Pujol’s right hand in the 1980s and early 1990s, became CiU’s candidate. After loosing again against Maragall, Mas did not stay in Barcelona’s City Council. Pujol appointed him as Catalan Minister for Public Works and Territorial Policy. Since that moment, in June 1995, Mas did not leave Catalan-level politics.

In 1997, when rumours about Pujol’s succession already started, Mas was appointed Catalan Minister for Economy and Budget. Mas had studied Economics at the University of Barcelona. In fact, before joining the public sector, Mas worked as a manager at Vilassar Internacional, a company of the painting-products group Tipel. Tipel was owned by the Prenafeta family, close to Jordi Pujol in the 1980s. Mas was the main person responsible for the Catalan economy and the Government’s Budget until 2001, as Pujol appointed him again after winning the 1999 elections.

2001 was the key year in Artur Mas’ political career. Pujol’s succession was a matter of large speculation for many years. However, in 2001, it was clear that Pujol was very close to retirement and that succession was an urgent matter to solve. Maragall already ran in the 1999 elections and he was very close to beating Jordi Pujol. In 2001, polls were bad for CiU and it seemed that Maragall would win the next elections. CiU is a coalition of 2 parties: the Liberal Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) and the Christian Democrat Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (UDC). Pujol was leading CDC, as well as the CiU as a whole. The leader of UDC, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, wanted to heir the leadership. However, Pujol and CDC resisted, as Unió is much smaller than CDC. Pujol made the movement to create the post of “Head Minister” within his government, a sort of Prime Minister. Mas was the person elected, not Duran i Lleida, who was also in the Government. Mas became the successor in pectore. In addition, in 2001, the coalition between both parties became a federation, stressing their links and creating a common directing body. Pujol and Mas won the pulse against Duran i Lleida and in January 2002, Mas was elected CiU’s candidate to the Catalan Presidency. Mas became Pujol’s official successor.

However, the most difficult times for Mas were still to come. In December 2003, he was not able to become Catalan President, as the CiU did not have enough seats, despite being the first party in the Parliament. Mas left the government and went to the opposition. In those times, he had to lead his party and the CiU federation. In 2006, Mas was convinced he would become the next Catalan President, as polls were giving him a large victory and Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero promised Mas that if CiU won the elections, the Catalan Socialist Party would respect its victory. The CiU won again but only got 48 seats, far away from the 68 seats of the absolute majority. As in 2003, the Left-Wing parties once again agreed and formed a coalition government. The winner of the elections was not able to govern, despite Zapatero’s promise. It was a very bitter moment for Mas. However, in this moment it was very clear that if Mas managed to resist in the opposition and continue leading the CiU, he would become the next Catalan President. These 7 years have enabled Mas to distance himself from Pujol’s times. Mas is now perceived as a serious, hard-worker, constant, reliable and efficient politician, who is also moderate in his approaches. As former President Maragall said, these years have also “humanised” Mas, making him look less arrogant and closer to people.