“We are acting in legitimate defence against systematic attacks” on self-rule, says Catalan President
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has stated that the independence process will be officially launched if pro-independence parties obtain an absolute majority of the MPs elected in the forthcoming Catalan Parliament elections, to be transformed into a ‘de facto’ plebiscite on independence from Spain. Mas emphasised that during the last 3 years, Catalan parties have been trying to organise a legal and mutually-agreed vote but that the Spanish Government has not wanted to talk even about it, despite more than 1.5 million citizens demonstrating each year on the streets and the results of the previous Catalan elections of November 2012. However, Mas stated he would still “exchange the forthcoming elections for a mutually-agreed referendum”, but highlighted that the Spanish Government has only left the transformation of regular elections into a plebiscite for Catalans to freely and democratically vote on their future as a country, an option that Mas already identified as the last resort in 2013. Therefore, according to him, “in elections, MPs are counted”, “if we were having a referendum we would be counting votes, but this is not the case”, he stressed.
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has stated that the independence process will be officially launched if pro-independence parties obtain an absolute majority of the MPs elected in the forthcoming Catalan Parliament elections, called for 27 September and to be transformed into a ‘de facto’ plebiscite on independence from Spain. Mas emphasised that during the last 3 years, Catalan parties tried to organise a legal and mutually-agreed vote with the Spanish authorities in many different ways. However the Spanish Government has not wanted to even sit and talk about it, despite more than 1.5 million citizens demonstrating each year on the streets for independence in a peaceful way and the fact that Catalan citizens overwhelmingly voted for parties supporting a self-determination vote in the previous elections of November 2012 (80% of the MPs elected). According to him, this is the only option left. In addition, the Spanish Government has been continuously implementing a broad strategy to recentralise powers and attack Catalonia’s self-rule, economic power and culture, said Mas, “destroying all the pacts” on which the transition from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy were based. “We are acting in legitimate defence against systematic attacks” on Catalonia, he underlined.
The Catalan President highlighted that the Spanish Government has ignored all the self-determination claims and the democratic demonstrations and results from the last elections. According to Mas, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has left the transformation of regular elections into a plebiscite as the only option for Catalans to freely and democratically vote on their future as a country, an option that Mas already identified as the last resort in 2013 and the potential use of which he has repeatedly warned Rajoy about.
Mas accuses Rajoy of attacking Catalonia’s self-government, going against the Spanish Constitution
However, the Spanish Government decided to ignore this possibility, continuing with its unilateral imposing of a no-to-everything attitude on all self-determination claims coming from Catalonia, and also to undermine the Catalan Government’s self-rule and recentralise powers, carrying out hidden Constitutional reform. “We are acting in legitimate defence against systematic attacks” on Catalonia’s self-rule, Mas underlined. “When you are being systematically attacked, you have the right to legitimate defence”, he added.
Mas accused the Spanish Government of systematically boycotting the Catalan Executive’s governmental actions and rules, as well as wide policies agreed through broad consensus in Catalonia, in a wide array of areas non-related to self-determination, such as the fight against poverty, regulations on retail opening hours and the schooling model. However, “if the Catalan people want, there is a way out”, said Mas, referring to independence. “People will have the decision in their hands in the form of a ballot”, he added.
Mas would still exchange the coming elections for a mutually-agreed vote
Nonetheless, despite the current situation, Mas stated he would still “exchange the forthcoming elections for a mutually-agreed referendum”, but emphasised that the Spanish Government would not even talk about it. Therefore, now the rules to be applied are those of elections, the Catalan President said. “In elections, MPs are counted”; “if we were having a referendum, we would be counting votes, but this is not the case”, he concluded. This means that the unitary list ‘Junts pel Sí (‘Together for the Yes’) that groups civil society organisations and Liberal, Social-Democrat, Socialist and Christian-Democrat parties, together with the list formed by the alternative-left party CUP, should all together obtain at least 68 MPs in the 135-seat chamber in order to launch the independence process.
Mas stated that they “will always be acting according to the legal frameworks”, be it the Spanish or the Catalan one, as the process will be driven by the Catalan Parliament. He stressed that the process is based on democratic legitimacy but also on respect for the law, stressing that there are several legal frameworks and that they can also be changed by the legal representatives of the people. “A Parliament will act, and it will create laws”, he added.
The Catalan President also asked everybody in Catalonia “to respect” the results and guaranteed that he will respect the results if pro-independence parties do not reach this absolute majority. In the event of this happening, the Catalan President stated that it would mean that Catalans do not want independence at this stage. However, Mas accused Rajoy of “cheating” when the Spanish PM denies that the next elections are a plebiscite on independence, as “if the ‘no’ wins, [Rajoy] will be the first one to say that the majority of Catalans do not want independence”. Therefore, if the elections are a plebiscite if the ‘no’ wins, they are also a plebiscite if the ‘yes’ wins, Mas added.
Spanish parties have not launched any initiative to better fit Catalonia in the last 3 years, and it is not likely they will do so in the future
Asked whether he would hope for a different scenario regarding relations between Catalonia and Spain if Rajoy were to lose the next Spanish general elections (to be held at the end of this year), Mas said he was sceptical, as none of the other major parties have supported a self-determination vote in Catalonia or have detailed their plans for a broad Constitutional reform to better fit Catalonia. The Catalan President emphasised that it does not seem likely that parties at Spanish level will be able to reach an agreement and propose a substantial change in Catalonia’s relations with Spain.
Mas recalled that Spanish parties have been able to launch initiatives and reach broad agreement for the most extremely important “challenges” the country has faced, such as the fight against terrorism, accession to the European Union, accession to the Eurozone and the reform of the Spanish Constitution to include limits on public deficits. However, in the last 3 years, no initiative has been launched to better fit Catalonia within Spain, no Constitutional reform has been detailed regarding the Catalonia issue and the main parties reject both holding a self-determination referendum in Catalonia and Catalonia’s nationhood status.
Instead of doing so, the Spanish institutions and the main parties have reacted by downplaying Catalan demands, rejecting Catalonia’s right to self-determination. Furthermore, Mas recalled that the Spanish State has reacted by spreading fear and threats, such as those foreseeing abrupt economic decline and being automatically kicked out of the European Union. The Catalan President said that if Scotland would have voted for its independence, it would now be negotiating with the European institutions about how to continue within the EU. In addition, Mas also mentioned the criminal charges pressed against him and other members of the government he chairs for having organised a symbolic vote on independence on 9 November last, in which 2.35 million Catalans participated despite the Spanish Government’s threats, with 80% of them voting for full independence from Spain.