The Catalan Government feels “greatly backed” and will approve its budget for 2011 on May 31st
The good results at the municipal elections give the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU), running the Government, the support of citizens to carry on with the austerity measures and its plan to reduce public expenditure by 10%. After the Government’s approval, the budget will be discussed at the Catalan Parliament and approved by the end of July. CiU does not want to mix budget negotiations at the Parliament with local agreements after the municipal elections.
Barcelona (ACN).- The municipal elections held last Sunday May 22nd saw the party running the Catalan Government a large victory. The Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU) won in important cities where it had never done so in democratic times, and became the first party in Catalonia in number of votes at the municipal elections for the first time. The Catalan Government feels “greatly backed” after the results from the municipal elections, the Government’s Spokesperson Francesc Homs stated on Tuesday. However, all the opposition parties consider that the municipal election results and that the Government’s budget cuts cannot be linked. Trade unions and left-wing parties had been criticising the Government’s austerity plans, fearing budget cuts would drastically affect the quality of public services. During the campaign, public employee unions organised street demonstrations, which were backed by the left-wing parties. Referring to the protests, Homs said that “those who were mixing apples with pears […] have received an extremely poor amount of support”. After the municipal elections, the Catalan Government has a clear path to approve the budget for 2011, which will cut public expenditure by 10% in order to reduce the public deficit. Homs announced that in the next Cabinet meeting, scheduled for May 31st, the Government will approve the budget proposal, which will then be sent to the Catalan Parliament for its definitive approval.
CiU is running the Government and lacks six MPs at the Parliament for an absolute majority. It is a small number, but enough to force them to negotiate with other parties, which will try to modify some aspects of the budget. Francesc Homs explained that the Government’s plan is that the Parliament will approve the budget just before the summer break, at the end of July. This season’s last plenary session is scheduled for July 20th, and it is the most likely date for the budget’s definitive approval. Therefore, CiU will be heading negotiations to approve the budget during June and the first days of July.
Homs emphasised that these negotiations will be separate to the negotiations derived from the municipal elections, regarding the local councils, “because they are different entities”. However, CiU needs the support of other parties to control local administrations, such as some city councils or the Barcelona Provincial Council. Homs asked for “responsibility” to the other parties, especially to “those who had been running the Catalan Government” until last December and are “responsible for the received inheritance”. “This budget is very much conditioned by how the Catalan Government had been managed [in previous years] and by what the current Government has found”, added Homs. With this statement, Homs was mainly referring to the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), as well as the Left Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV-EUiA). “They have to feel co-responsible for the budget, they cannot look in another direction; after what happened in the [municipal] elections, nobody would understand it”, Homs said.
CiU does not want to be seen as the only responsible party of a budget that will have to cut public expenditure to meet criteria of the deficit reduction. However, the opposition parties have been accusing CiU of cutting public expenditure and thus public services and, at the same time, reducing revenues by eliminating the Inheritance Tax. The definitive measure by which the Inheritance Tax will be almost eliminated will be approved by the Catalan Parliament next week, after the Catalan Government did so in early April.
“The seriousness policy, the responsibility policy, the rigour, the austerity […] have been widely backed across our country”, stated Homs. However, Homs explained that the support of the electorate will not change the dimension of the public expenditure cuts, which will be equivalent to 10%, as it has been repeated on many occasions. CiU wants to profit from the political momentum and use it during the negotiation to finally pass a budget as close as possible from its initial proposal.
The opposition is surprised by CiU linking last election results with the austerity measures
All the opposition parties disagree with CiU and the Catalan Government’s interpretation of being “greatly backed” by the citizens after the municipal elections. The PSC leader at the Catalan Parliament, Joaquim Nadal, said to be “extremely surprised” by this statement. Nadal emphasised the local nature of the municipal elections. He reminded CiU that they did not win everywhere and that actually in some cities and towns they lost votes, while other parties were winning them. Nadal wondered if “the support is then valid for one city but not for another”. Nadal concluded by stating that “the budget cuts are the Government’s responsibility”. The Spokesperson for the People’s Party (PP) at the Catalan Parliament, Enric Millo, considers CiU’s interpretation of the results to be “ridiculous”, as “they should not mix the punishment vote for the former managers with a support vote for budget cuts”. The rest of the parties, ICV-EUiA, ERC, C’s and SI also criticised the Government’s interpretation.