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The Catalan Socialists propose a constitutional self-determination referendum but the Spanish Socialists are opposed

The PSC approved its electoral programme last weekend with the aim of becoming a third option “between the recentralisation of the People’s Party (PP) and the independence of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU)”. They propose the reformation of the Constitution to build a federal Spain and the organisation of a self-determination referendum in Catalonia, in which they would defend Spain’s unity. However, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – to which the Catalan Socialists (PSC) are federated – is against the possibility of organising a self-determination referendum in Catalonia. A few weeks ago, the PSC was still against organising such a referendum, although now they have embraced the idea shared by almost 80% of Catalans, according to the polls.


29 October 2012 11:23 PM


ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Barcelona (ACN).- On Sunday the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) approved its electoral programme for the next Catalan elections, to be held on the 25th of November. For the first time, the PSC, which is Catalonia\u2019s second largest party, defends the organisation of a self-determination referendum, although they oppose Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain. The PSC presented itself as a third option \u201Cbetween the recentralisation of the People\u2019s Party (PP) and the independence of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU)\u201D, as its Secretary General and candidate for President of the Catalan Government, Pere Navarro stated. The PSC proposes the reformation of the current Spanish Constitution in order to build a federal Spain, in which Catalonia would have its \u201Csingularity\u201D respected. The PSC\u2019s constitutional reform would allow a self-determination referendum to be called. However, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) \u2013 to which the PSC is federated \u2013 opposes the possibility of legalising self-determination referendums. The PSOE\u2019s Secretary General, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, said in a radio interview on Monday that he \u201Cdoes not share\u201D the PSC\u2019s \u201Cright to decide [on Catalonia\u2019s own future] formula\u201D. Rubalcaba stated that he supports the reformation of the Constitution \u201Cthrough a maximum consensus\u201D, going in \u201Ca federal direction\u201D. Besides the independence debate, the PSC focuses its programme on the economic crisis and stopping the budget cuts in the public health and education systems. Navarro stated that austerity measures \u201Ccan be different\u201D to those already implemented, reinforcing \u201Csocial cohesion\u201D.

On Sunday, the PSC\u2019s National Council approved its electoral programme with almost 400 affirmative votes, 4 abstentions and 1 negative vote. The party\u2019s Secretary General and candidate to become the next Catalan President, Pere Navarro, stated that \u201Cthe priority\u201D for the next term is \u201Cthe constitutional reform to move forward on building a Federal State\u201D, transforming the current Spanish State, which is divided into 17 Autonomous Communities, into a fully federal country. Navarro added that they defend this project based on two principles: \u201Clegality\u201D and Catalonia\u2019s \u201Cright to decide\u201D on its own future. This means that the Catalan Socialists \u201Cengage in promoting the required reforms to allow Catalan citizens to exercise their right to decide [on Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain] via a referendum agreed on a legal framework\u201D, explained Navarro.

It is the first time that the PSC supports the organisation of a self-determination referendum. In September, the PSC voted against a motion in the Catalan Parliament urging the organisation of such a referendum within the next four years. Since the 11th September\u2019s massive demonstration asking for Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain \u2013 in which 1.5 million citizens participated according to local police - many opinion polls have been issued on the issue, indicating that between 74% and 81% of Catalans would be in favour of organising a self-determination referendum. In the light of such polls, Catalonia\u2019s political climate and the PSC\u2019s own internal debate, the party has changed its official stance and now defends the organisation of such a referendum, although within the Spanish legal framework. Currently, the Spanish Constitution requires the referendum to be approved by the Spanish Government, which has already stated it would not authorise it. Furthermore, some legal experts linked to the Spanish nationalism say that in any case the Constitution would not allow the organisation of such a referendum, as sovereignty is only related to the Spanish people as a whole. In fact, instead of \u201Cfacing\u201D the claim expressed by many Catalan citizens, the Spanish Government \u201Chas responded with a recentralisation offensive\u201D, said Navarro. For these and other reasons, the PSC defends reforming the Constitution as a prior step to organising the referendum.

The PSOE opposes the self-determination referendum

However, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) does not agree with the PSC on the organisation of a self-determination referendum. On the contrary, the PSOE completely opposes the idea. In a radio interview, the PSOE\u2019s leader explained that they \u201Cdo not share\u201D the PSC\u2019s proposal of a referendum. However they respect the PSC\u2019s proposal, as the PSOE is represented in Catalonia by the PSC and they are \u201Ctwo different parties\u201D. Nevertheless, Rubalcaba emphasised that \u201Cwhat is being debated in Catalonia is whether Catalonia leaves or remains in Spain, if it gets independence or not, this is the debate\u201D. \u201CIn this debate, the PSC is unequivocally with the PSOE\u201D in saying \u2018no\u2019 to independence, he added. \u201COn this we are completely in agreement\u201D, he concluded. Furthermore, Rubalcaba stated that they agree with the PSC on the need to reform the Spanish Constitution to move forward \u201Cin a federal direction\u201D. The PSOE has started to talk again about a federal Spain since a few weeks ago, since the massive demonstration asking for Catalonia\u2019s independence. However, the PSOE wants \u201Cthe maximum consensus\u201D to reform the Constitution, \u201Ctalking with everybody\u201D, and \u201Cparticularly with the People\u2019s Party (PP)\u201D. In this sense, Rubalcaba lamented that the PP and CiU\u2019s leader, Mariano Rajoy and Artur Mas respectively, have been unable to reach an agreement, \u201Cdespite governing together for one and a half years\u201D.

Navarro\u2019s four Rs

Navarro presented its electoral programme and emphasised that it is based on \u201Cfour Rs\u201D: \u201Cthe recognition of Spain as a plurinational state\u201D; \u201Cthe rules\u201D clearly allocating competences; \u201Cthe representation\u201D in order to transform the Senate into a territorial chamber; and \u201Cthe resources\u201D, which should be distributed following the principles of sufficiency, justice and solidarity. This means \u201Creaching a Federal State that guarantees the maximum self-government levels for Catalonia\u201D and a better and more transparent fiscal redistribution scheme.

The PSC promises to stop budget cuts in healthcare and education

In addition, the PSC\u2019s electoral programme focuses on the economic crisis and austerity measures. Navarro proposed \u201Ca different austerity\u201D, based on \u201Csocial cohesion\u201D, \u201Cwith everybody on board\u201D. The PSC\u2019s Secretary General promised that he \u201Cwill not cut the healthcare and education\u201D budgets. Navarro strongly criticised the Catalan Government\u2019s budget cuts and asked for a \u201Cfairer\u201D taxation system. \u201CThe working and middle classes should not be the only ones paying\u201D for the crisis, he emphasised.

The PSC\u2019s electoral fall

The PSC is going through a long transition period, which started two years ago when it left the Catalan Government \u2013 which had been running for seven years (2003-2010) with the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the Catalan Green and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) together. Last September it changed its leadership and Pere Navarro, who was close to the former party leadership, became the new Secretary General. In recent years, and especially since Navarro\u2019s leadership, the PSC has turned towards a more pro-Spanish stance, by marginalising its more pro-Catalan members. However, the PSC was born in the late 1970s as the union of 3 Socialist Parties: two Catalan parties and the PSOE in Catalonia. In its three and a half decades of history, the PSC has combined these two identities, called its \u201Ctwo souls\u201D. Now, \u201Cthe Spanish soul\u201D seems to have won the internal battle. In parallel, some of its more pro-Catalan members have abandoned the party, such as the Maragall brothers, who ruled the party in the late 1990s and early 2000s and the Catalan Government between 2003 and 2006.

In the last Catalan elections, organised in November 2010, the PSC had its worst defeat ever, obtaining just 28 seats in the 135-seat Catalan Parliament. All the recent polls indicate that in the next elections \u2013 to be held in one month \u2013 the PSC might obtain even worse results, receiving between 18 and 22 seats. The PSC\u2019s fall is to be added to the PSOE\u2019s fall throughout Spain. This would change Catalonia\u2019s electoral map, as the PSC risks not being the second party anymore. In addition, because of its \u201Ctwo souls\u201D, the PSC was merging to electoral bases: the more pro-Spain unity socialists (often from Spanish-speaking backgrounds) and the more pro-Catalan singularity socialists (often from Catalan-speaking backgrounds). With its latest move, the PSC risks losing this second group, if it has not already lost it. Therefore, the PSC might no longer be the party grouping these two social groups, which was a powerful social asset, fostering social cohesion.


  • Rubalcaba (left) and Navarro (right) this last summer in Greater Barcelona (by J. Pérez)

  • Rubalcaba (left) and Navarro (right) this last summer in Greater Barcelona (by J. Pérez)