The President of the Catalan Government aims to stay in office regardless of the self-determination vote

Artur Mas, President of the Catalan Government, presented the Government Plan for 2013-2016 on Tuesday, emphasising that he aims to complete the four-year office term regardless of whether Catalonia’s self-determination vote is finally held in 2014, as the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) planned with the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC). With the Plan, Mas has set 77 objectives in seven different areas, aiming to reaffirm political leadership and show the Catalan Government’s actions in a wide range of areas such as economic recovery, job creation, public services, environment protection, etc. Mas also asked the ERC and the Catalan Socialists (PSC) to sit in the Catalan Government. All the opposition parties except the ERC criticised the Plan.

The President of the Catalan Executive, Artur Mas, at the press conference presenting the Government Plan 2013-2016 (P. Mateu)
The President of the Catalan Executive, Artur Mas, at the press conference presenting the Government Plan 2013-2016 (P. Mateu) / CNA


June 12, 2013 01:16 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- Artur Mas, President of the Catalan Executive, presented the Government Plan for 2013-2016 on Tuesday, which sets 77 objectives and contains 355 specific measures in a wide range of areas. The plan aims to boost political action and show that the Catalan Government is working on several fronts, beyond the self-determination process and the control of public deficit. However, Mas also sent several political messages during the presentation of the plan at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona. The main one being that he is aiming to complete the four-year office term regardless of whether Catalonia’s self-determination vote is finally held in 2014, as the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) planned with the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC). The Catalan President and CiU leader stated that, even if the self-determination vote is organised in 2014, he will stay in office until the legal end of the term in order to implement the government plan presented today. However, he also emphasised that this had to have the necessary parliamentary support. In practical terms it means having the direct or indirect support of another party, namely the ERC or the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), since everybody rules out the possibility of being backed by the People’s Party – which runs the Spanish Government – as it happened in 2011 and 2012. Therefore, Mas insisted on offering the ERC and the PSC seats in the Catalan Government, as “adding effort” together is “positive for the country”, he said. The ERC and the PSC refused to sit in the Cabinet, although the pro-independence party backed the Government Plan. The rest of the opposition parties – the PSC, the People’s Party (PP), the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), the populist anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s) and the radical left-wing and independence party CUP – criticised Mas’ Government Plan for a wide range of issues. However, many parties criticised the plan for one similar reason: they considered it to be mostly driven to counteract recent negative opinion polls.

CiU runs the Government with a parliamentary stability pact with the ERC

Currently the CiU runs the Catalan Government all by itself but with a parliamentary stability agreement with the ERC, which was mainly based on approving the most significant laws and organising a self-determination vote before the end of 2014. However, the approval of the Catalan Government’s budget is being delayed, since the Spanish Government has not set a specific deficit target for Catalonia for 2013 and the CiU and ERC refuse to approve a budget that will have to be completely re-made a few weeks later. On top of this, two year and a half of budget cuts and recent internal friction within the CiU due to the self-determination process are damaging the coalition’s electoral support, according to a recent poll issued last weekend by El Periódico newspaper. According to this poll, the CiU would lose the Catalan elections for the first time ever and the ERC would win them, having doubled its current support.

The ERC asks for a “solemn” petition to organise the self-determination vote

The ERC stated they will only sit in the Cabinet if a specific date has previously been set to take Catalonia’s self-determination vote. However, they supported the Government Plan presented by Mas and they stated that it respects their agreement, which foresaw that before the end of June 2013, the Catalan Government should ask the Spanish Executive for the self-determination vote to be taken. On this point, Mas stated today that he has already asked Prime Minister Rajoy for the vote when they both met. However the Catalan President also stated that he is open to discuss with the ERC if a more “solemn” petition is needed in order to make it crystal clear that the majority of Catalans want to organise such a vote as soon as possible. The ERC later added that they will ask the Catalan Government for this “solemn” and “formal” petition to be made to the Spanish Executive, because they “want to hear the official answer” given by Rajoy. If Rajoy’s answer to a formal petition is still negative, a majority of the Catalan Parliament is willing to use Catalonia’s own legal framework to call for such a democratic vote in order to know the citizen’s desire on the issue.

The Catalan President again ruled out a unilateral declaration of independence

Once again, Mas ruled out the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence. However, he also insisted on the right of the Catalan people to decide on their collective future and to express their views on the issue through a democratic vote. Mas explained that under the current legislative framework the vote could be organised but it would not be legally binding. Mas insisted that “the current legal framework” authorises a self-determination referendum but the Spanish Government has imposed its “political will” and totally opposes it. According to him, the vote will be an “accurate thermometer” to assess what Catalans really want and, consequently, the Catalan and Spanish Governments should negotiate accordingly. This would be “the good and serene way of doing things”.

Mas is sending several messages

With the presentation of the plan, saying he will complete the term and calling for a multiple-party government, Mas aims to re-affirm his political leadership, to show the government he chairs is working on manifold issues and to share the electoral burden of adopting unpopular measures. He also sent a double message to the ERC, the Spanish Government and the Catalan business community, who traditionally back CiU. Firstly, the Catalan Government will continue to work on boosting the economic recovery, the creation of jobs, guaranteeing public services and many other issues, no matter what happens with the self-determination vote. And secondly, the Catalan Government is not giving up on its electoral promise to organise a self-determination vote in Catalonia this term and as soon as possible, in order to allow Catalans to decide on their own collective future.

A plan with 77 objectives in 7 different areas

With the Government Plan, Mas sets 77 objectives in 7 different areas. They are economic recovery and job creation; social cohesion and public services; self-determination right and the so-called “national transition”; sustainability and stability of public finances; the agility and transparency of the Catalan Government’s administration; sustainable development and territorial cohesion, and external projection and international recognition of Catalonia’s identity, language and culture. The plan includes 355 specific measures, split into 212 executive actions, 65 legislative initiatives and 78 regulation projects. With this plan, Mas stated that he wants to show the Government “has a North” and “a direction”. He explained that in his view 2011 and 2012 were the main years to undertake adjustments and that 2013 and 2014 are the years to confirm the change in trend and to boost economic recovery.