The Catalan President to formally ask Madrid for a vote after the first meeting of the Self-Determination Pact
The participants to the so-called National Alliance for the Self-Determination Right have met for the first time, bringing together almost 50 entities, including political parties, business associations, trade unions, social organisations and cultural institutions. This transversal initiative gathering together a wide part of Catalan society aims to reach an internal consensus on how to proceed in order to allow Catalans to vote on their collective future. Attendees agreed to ask the former President of the Catalan Parliament, Joan Rigol, to draft a text expressing the “common denominators” of the participants. In addition, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, will send a letter to the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, making a formal petition for the organisation of a self-determination vote in Catalonia.
Barcelona (ACN).- The participants to the so-called National Alliance for the Self-Determination Right of Catalonia met for the first time on Wednesday in Barcelona, bringing together almost 50 entities, including political parties, business associations, trade unions, social organisations and cultural institutions. This transversal initiative representing a wide part of Catalan society aims to reach an internal consensus on how to proceed in order to organise a self-determination vote in Catalonia and allow citizens to decide on their collective future, especially regarding the potential independence from Spain. The participants represent the main political parties and civil society organisations in Catalonia, although significant exceptions are noted, in particular the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), supports self-determination but considered the meeting was biased – and Foment del Treball, the association of the main business owners. However, representatives from other important business associations and Chambers of Commerce were present. The political parties present at the meeting represent 64.5% of the Catalan Parliament. In their constitutive meeting, the attendees agreed to ask the former President of the Catalan Parliament, Joan Rigol, to come up with a text expressing the “common denominators” of the participants as a base to start discussion in order to build a wide consensus, as was explained after the meeting by the Catalan Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs. In addition, Homs also announced that the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, will send a letter to the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, explaining “the echo of the initiative” and making the formal petition to organise a self-determination vote in Catalonia. Homs also underlined the will “to make things based on dialogue, negotiation, the rule of law and the current legal framework”.
A formal petition to organise a self-determination vote
One of the main outcomes of today’s meeting is that the Catalan President will send PM Rajoy a formal letter asking the Spanish Government to allow the organisation of a self-determination vote in Catalonia. In fact, this was a previous petition from the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which gives parliamentary support to the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU). Rajoy is expected to close the door on the petition and not even hold talks on the issue, has he has been doing over the last year. However, many in Catalonia are convinced about the need to send a crystal clear petition, to which the Spanish Government has to answer formally. This petition will be added to the manifold citizen demonstrations and political statements from Catalan institutions made in the last few years. In addition, it will be added to last November’s electoral results, when the wide majority of Catalan citizens voted for parties supporting Catalonia’s self-determination right. So far, the Spanish Government has gone from ignoring such petitions to totally opposing them with the main argument of the Spanish Constitution – approved immediately after Franco dictatorship and agreed upon with representatives from the dictatorial regime. At the same time, they oppose modifying the Constitution to allow such vote. Now, a large majority of Catalan society is expecting a definitive answer from the Spanish Government and then, on the grounds of this answer, participants of the National Alliance for the Self-Determination Right will discuss how to proceed.
A base for discussion
As Francesc Homs explained, one of the tools to help them move forward will be having “a reference text”, which all the participants can share. Similar texts already exist which group municipalities, political parties at the level of the Catalan Parliament or civil society organisations. However, this new text will group together Catalan institutions, political parties, economic agents and civil society organisations in a transversal way, showing a wide, diverse and plural front supporting Catalonia’s right for self-determination. Participants have agreed to ask Joan Rigol, a respected veteran figure of Catalan politics from the CiU, to draft a text expressing the “common denominators” of the participants. Rigol, who is a Christian-Democrat, was President of the Catalan Parliament between 1999 and 2003 and later on he chaired the Sagrada Família’s Board of Trustees.
Plurality and democracy
Homs emphasised that the meeting showed that in order to be part of the National Alliance for the Self-Determination Right, participants “do not need to think the same, neither do we have to agree on which has to be the way out” of the current political situation. This means that the participants do not necessarily support Catalonia’s independence from Spain. According to Homs, this plurality and diversity shows that the right to self-determination is based “on radically democratic terms”. In fact, despite their different ideologies, all participants agree on allowing Catalan citizens to hold a self-determination vote and freely and democratically decide on their collective future. In this vein, Homs said that the Catalan Government aims to add further organisations to the National Alliance. A website platform will be put in place to foster participation and transparency.
Significant political absentees
The PSC, despite supporting Catalonia’s right to self-determination – through a reform of the Spanish Constitution – is the main political absentee from today’s meeting. Last week the PSC closed the door on participating in the National Alliance as they believe that this initiative is not neutral and it aims to fuel Catalonia’s independence from Spain. However, the Catalan Socialists will continue to participate in the parliamentary committee on Catalonia’s self-determination right. However, current and former members of the PSC have protested against the party’s decision to exclude itself from the National Alliance and some have given their personal support to the initiative. One member of the PSC Executive Committee, Fabián Mohedano, even participated in the National Alliance’s first meeting, as he represented the civil society association ‘Moviment Laic i Progressista’. The PSC holds 14.8% of the Catalan Parliament’s seats and it is the third largest party in the Chamber.
Besides the PSC, the two Spanish nationalist parties present in the Catalan Parliament – the Conservative People’s Party (PP) and the anti-Catalan Nationalism Party Ciutadans (C’s) –also excluded themselves from the initiative. The PP runs the Spanish Government and its leader in Catalonia accused the Catalan President of “dividing Catalan society” and “cheating Catalans with fake democracy”, since according to her “a referendum would be illegal”. C’s qualified the National Alliance as a “separatist performance”, which is full of “subsidised entities”. In addition, they asked the PSC to abandon the parliamentary committee for the self-determination right and join them in fully opposing the claim. The PP and C’s hold 20.7% of the Catalan Parliament seats (14.1% and 6.6% respectively). They are the fourth and the sixth largest parties in the Chamber.