The Catalan President will organise a vote for self determination even if the Spanish Government bans it

In the Catalan Parliament’s main annual debate, the parties assessed the current situation and the Catalan President’s speech from yesterday. The parties that openly support Catalonia’s independence backed the Catalan President and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) but asked to rush proceedings. Those supporting the right to self-determination but not necessarily independence and those directly opposing independence criticised CiU’s policies for fighting the crisis and its focus on the process to create a state. The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, offered a detailed reply to each intervention. However, he also made an announcement: if he is re-elected President, he will organise a referendum on self-rule, even if the Spanish Government bans it.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

September 27, 2012 02:35 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, announced on Wednesday that if he is re-elected in the 25th November elections – which were called yesterday – he will organise a vote for self-determination in the next term, allowing Catalan people decide on their own future. Furthermore, he emphasised he would do so even if the Spanish Government opposed the move. This announcement comes two weeks after the massive demonstration for Catalonia’s independence from Spain, when 1.5 million people, according to the Catalan and local police corps, peacefully marched along Barcelona’s streets. Mas made the announcement on the second day of the Catalan Parliament’s main annual debate, called the Debate on General Policy. The first day was the President’s time to address the Parliament and today the different political groups assessed the current situation, reflected on the future and replied to Mas’ speech. Furthermore, the Catalan President replied each of the interventions, as the Parliament’s rules stipulate. Besides the total support from his own party (CiU), the President speech was mostly backed by the parties that openly support independence (ERC and SI). However they asked Mas “to rush” and “fix a clear calendar”, which the Catalan President refused to do. The parties supporting the right to self-determination (PSC and ICV-EUiA), which are also Left-Wing, criticised Mas for his Right-Wing policies, for having downgraded public services and for acting with his party’s interest in mind instead of the country’s. Mas replied that these accusations are “demagogical” and that the budget cuts were necessary to control the public deficit. Finally, the parties opposing the Catalan independence (PP and C’s) – which are Spanish nationalist – criticised Mas for driving Catalonia “to uncertainty” and for hiding his economic “failure” behind the independence claims. Mas lamented the use of “fear strategies” to avoid allowing Catalans to freely and directly decide on their own future.

The PSC proposes a “legal referendum” to ratify an agreement with Spain

The main opposition party in Catalonia, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) –which is federated with the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE)-, proposed “a third way” instead of the “dead end” represented by the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) and the People’s Party (PP). CiU runs the Catalan Government and now proposes to celebrate the self-determination vote; the PP runs the Spanish Government and opposes the recognition of Catalonia’s specificities and the specific economic agreement, similar to that of the Basque Country and Navarra. The PSC defends “an asymmetrical federal” Spain, where Catalonia would have its national status recognised. The Chairman of the Socialist Group at the Catalan Parliament, Xavier Sabaté, proposed firstly to agree with Spain on this new model by “reforming the Constitution” and then to ratify this agreement through “a legal referendum”. In addition, he criticised Mas for having put his party’s interests first and for not having worked to solve Catalonia’s economic problems. According to Sabaté, the Catalan President is hiding the social debate and the budget cuts behind the Catalan independence flag.

Mas responded to Sabaté by announcing that “a legal referendum” needs to be authorised by the Spanish Government. However, if Madrid does not authorise the Catalan people to directly vote on their own future, Catalans still have the right to democratically have their say and must do so. “If a referendum can be organised because the Spanish Government authorises it, good. However if it does not authorise it, it has to be organised anyway”, stated Mas. The Catalan President also refuted the accusation of having organised the elections following party interests.

The PP accuses Mas of leading Catalonia to “uncertain roads”

The leader of the Catalan branch of the People’s Party (PP), Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, accused Mas of leading Catalonia towards “uncertain roads”. She emphasised that a referendum not authorised by the Spanish Government would be “illegal” and stated that Mas is using the elections for tactical reasons. She asked for the support of the “Catalan citizens who refuse to break with Spain”. She stated that an independent Catalonia would be out of the EU as Spain would veto it. In addition, she proposed a 20% reduction in the number of Catalan MPs, following “austerity” principles.

The Catalan President responded to  Sánchez-Camacho saying that she is “using fear strategies” to avoid allowing the Catalan people “to freely decide on their future”. “Catalan people must be heard without threatening them or inferring fear”, he added. “We want to be in the European Union and the Euro. And this depends on the Catalans, the Spaniards, and which things are made at EU-level”, he emphasised. Mas also asked the PP to accept that “Catalonia is a nation and not a simple Autonomous Community”, as this is “the main problem”.

The ICV-EUiA asked for “transversal majorities” to build the self-determination process

The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) criticised Mas for having abandoned the people who are suffering because of the crisis and the budget cuts. ICV-EUiA’s Chairman, Joan Herrera, stated that Mas is following “austerity as a dogma” and that the Catalan Government has failed in guaranteeing social cohesion. Herrera criticised the budget cuts in social services and accused Mas of working for the richest and of being “elitist”. He backed the self-determination process but he asked Mas to build “transversal majorities”. For Herrera the split needs to be between “those who want to democratically decide” and “those who refuse the democratic expression of the citizenry”.

Mas accused Herrera of being “demagogical”. The Catalan President stated that they agree on many things regarding the national aspects and the self-determination process. However he lamented Herrera’s tone regarding the economic crisis and the social issues. Mas defended the budget cuts as being “necessary” and said that Left-Wing governments are also implementing them. He also refused to consider austerity to be “a dogma”. The Catalan President insisted that “austerity is a value” and a requirement agreed on by all the European Member States.

The ERC asks for a calendar fixing the road map towards independence

The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) asked Mas “to fix a calendar”, which should state the road map towards independence. The Chairman of ERC’s Parliamentary group, Joan Puigcercós, stated that “we are in a rush”, as independence would be “the solution to Catalonia’s economic and social problems”. In addition he urged Mas to “fix a date for democracy”, pushing the Catalan President to fix a date for an independence referendum. In addition, Puigcercós asked Mas to implement policies with a social stress, as “those having to vote for the independence are suffering” due to the crisis.

The Catalan President refused to give a calendar or to fix any date. He asked for “flexibility” regarding the date for the self-determination vote. Furthermore, he emphasised that the vote should be organised when there is a large majority of Catalans who have decided to vote for independence, because if the independence supporters lost the referendum, the process would be stopped for many years.

C’s criticised the “failure” of Mas’ Government and SI asked “to put political differences to the side”

The two minority parties, the anti-Catalan nationalist and populist party ‘Ciutadans’ (C’s) and the radical independence and populist party ‘Solidaritat’ (SI), who share the mixed group, exposed their very different views. C’s stated that “Mas’ Government has failed” in fighting the economic crisis and working towards recovery, as “the current situation is worse than it was two years ago”. They also accused Mas of “using the independence debate to hide this failure” and they draw parallelisms with a coup d’état.

SI asked the parties “to put their differences to the side” and to unite to work for Catalan independence. SI considers the next Catalan elections, to be held on 25th November, to be a de facto independence referendum to end with “Spain’s plundering”.

Mas lamented that C’s, which “represents an absolute minority”, “act as if they had an absolute majority”. The Catalan President accused C’s of being demagogical. Regarding SI’s intervention, the Catalan President recommended that they should use a less aggressive language.