Catalonia’s ruling coalition committed to declaring independence this week
Vice-president Junqueras says Spain has left “no other option”
Vice-president Junqueras says Spain has left “no other option”
The Catalan Parliament called for the Government to “launch the necessary actions to obtain the advice, recognition, and endorsement of the Venice Commission with respect to the conditions that the referendum should fulfill in order to meet the requirements established by this body”. The Catalan Chamber also agreed to ask the Catalan executive to inform the Commission of the Catalan people’s desire to call “a referendum in agreement with the State”. This point was approved thanks to the votes of governing coalition Junts Pel Sí and the alternative left coalition Catalunya Sí que es Pot. However, the members of the other pro-independence party in the chamber, the radical left CUP, abstained from voting, since they believe that the possibility of reaching an agreement with the Spanish State regarding the referendum is not realistic.
Catalan VP, Oriol Junqueras, insisted this Wednesday on the pro-independence parties’ commitment to calling a referendum this September. He underscored the unity within the group despite the fact that some representatives from the main parties within the governing Junts Pel Sí coalition had expressed differing positions regarding how the referendum should be carried out. While pro-independence left-wing ERC’s Marta Rovira announced that a task force of unemployed persons could be organized to carry out referendum-related tasks, the Catalan Government’s Spokeswoman, Neus Munté, said this was a decision that “is not part of the Government’s plans”. “We are all committed to the referendum and we are going to do it together,” said Junqueras, playing down the disagreement.
Latest polls say 50.3% of Catalans want to call a referendum on independence regardless of whether the Spanish Government agrees. Indeed, if both parts fail to reach an agreement and the consultation takes place anyway, 43.3% would vote ‘yes’ to Catalonia’s independence. Another 22.2% would vote ‘no’ and 20.7% would abstain, according to the latest poll by the Center for Opinion Studies (CEO). In response to whether they would like to simply like referendum to be held in Catalonia, 73.3% of the surveyed answered ‘yes’. The CEO also noted that governing coalition Junts Pel Sí would win the Catalan elections again if they were held today. However, their influence in the parliament would decline from the 62 current MPs to 58 or 60. The other main pro-independence party in the chamber, the radical-left CUP, would also lose 2 MPS.
The pro-independence parties in the Catalan Chamber, governing cross-party ‘Junts Pel Sí’ and radical left CUP have passed the 2017 budget. The bill has been described as the last budget of the autonomic period, since it foresees calling a referendum on independence next September. Last June, CUP refused to pass the bill for 2016 which led to the vote of confidence promoted by Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont. They considered the numbers presented then to be “too autonomic” rather than responding to the pro-independence aspirations of Catalonia. After a new draft was presented last November, increasing the social expenditure and reinforcing the government’s commitment to call a referendum, CUP have accepted the bill. However, they have urged the Catalan Government to announce the date and the question of the referendum as quick as possible.
The Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) has definitely suspended the governing party ‘Junts Pel Sí’ and radical left pro-independence CUP joint proposal to call a referendum in 2017. A decision which, according to Catalan Government Spokeswoman, Neus Munté “was not surprising” not even at “this extraordinary speed” and culminating “a tense week” during which the 9-N trial over symbolic vote on independence took place at Barcelona’s High Court. However, she assured that the ruling “won’t change the Government’s determination to call a referendum this year”. Munté emphasised that the joint resolution “was discussed and voted on by the Catalan MPs in accordance to the freedom of speech” and that these MPs were “democratically elected”. In a similar sense, CUP MP Benet Salellas warned that his group “will guarantee that the referendum takes place, regardless of the TC’s wishes”.
The Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) has temporarily suspended the proposal approved by governing cross-party list ‘Junts Pel Sí’ and radical left pro-independence CUP to call a referendum in Catalonia. The magistrates admitted this Wednesday to proceed with the appeal presented by the Spanish executive in October, which calls for the suspension of the pro-independence group’s proposal approved in the Parliament and considers it to have emerged from the previously suspended declaration to start launching the pro-independence roadmap. The TC judges have also warned Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont and Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell that they must avoid any initiative aimed at contravening this suspension. The TC decision arrives only two days before Forcadell is due to testify before the Court for allegedly violating the Spanish Constitution when allowing the pro-independence debate to take place in the Catalan Chamber, last July.
The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, has summoned the members of the National Alliance for the Right to Self-Determination to meet on the 23rd of December to start organising the referendum on independence. The summit, in compliance with the resolutions adopted at the general policy debate in October, will be chaired by Puigdemont and the President of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell. As sources close to the presidency have told the Catalan News Agency, the meeting will be held in the Parliament just after it has given green light to the 2017 budget. The aim of the meeting is to find political and social consensus around the organisation of the referendum to be held next September 2017. According to the Spanish Government spokesman, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, the meeting is a “symptom of unilateralism”, resulting from requests from “the radicals of the CUP”.
If new elections were to be called in Catalonia today, the winner would be governing cross-party pro-independence ‘Junts Pel Sí’, which would still have between 60 and 62 seats in the 135-seat Parliament. Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans’, which is currently the main party in the opposition with 25 MPs would get between 15 and 21 seats. The highest increase according to a poll released this Friday would be for alternative left alliance ‘Catalunya Sí que es Pot’ (CSQP) which would get 19-20 MPs compared to the 11 seats it currently has in the Chamber. On the other hand, radical left pro-independence CUP would drop from 10 seats to 6-8. Regarding pro-independence support amongst Catalans, the poll shows a return to the tie situation which has been the most common result of the polls. Thus, 44.9% of Catalans would support independence, while 45.1% would vote against it.
There will be an allocation in the 2017 budget for the pro-independence referendum, which the Catalan Government will carry out “regardless of the situation”. Thus, the Secretary for Tax Office, Lluís Salvadó, responded to pro-independence CUP’s demands to call a referendum in 2017 even if the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) could ultimately appeal or suspend the bill. “The Catalan Government has a univocal commitment and the referendum will go ahead”, he stated this Tuesday in an interview with TV3. “We will do it in one context or another”, he added. The bill for 2017, which received CUP’s support last Saturday, also increases social expenditure by 989 MEUR in comparison to the amount allocated for this purpose in 2015. The Government is determined to approve the budget for 2017 and bring the bill before Parliament on the 29th of November.
The Catalan executive and radical left pro-independence CUP are negotiating the fiscal law, the so called Accompaniment Law, for the 2017 budget. The draft is set to include tax reforms as well as the introduction of new taxes especially oriented toward avoiding property speculation. One of the main hurdles has to do with the reform of income tax, which foresees the elimination of tax relief for property purchase for those who earn more than 30,000 euros per year. By applying this modification the Government could collect 11 MEUR in 2018, negotiators estimate. CUP also aimed to increase income tax for those who earn more than 60,000, but this proposal is not apparently on the table.
Governing cross-party list ‘Junts Pel Sí’ and their main partner in the Parliament, radical left CUP are putting the final touches to a referendum proposal. Both pro-independence forces have agreed to hold a vote by September 2017 “at the latest” and base it on a “clear question” which could be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (to independence). Although earlier this week CUP suggested holding the referendum next July, the radical left party admitted that it is not “for them alone to decide”, CUP MP Anna Gabriel said this Wednesday in an interview with Catalan television TV3. Gabriel also insisted that the referendum will be held “regardless of the Spanish State’s refusal”. In this vein, Gabriel considered that calling a referendum agreed with the Spanish State has to be regarded as “a technique” for the international audience.
This Thursday is the first anniversary of the Catalan Elections of the 27th of September 2015, which led to the first pro-independence majority in the Parliament. Cross-party list ‘Junts Pel Sí’, which gathered together representatives from civil society and politicians such as left wing ERC’s leader, Oriol Junqueras, former MEP Raül Romeva and former President Mas, amongst others, won the elections, obtaining 62 MPs in the 135-seat Catalan Chamber. However, they didn’t obtain an absolute majority and negotiated with radical left pro-independence CUP, who got 10 MPs, in order to have a majority in favour of independence in the Catalan Chamber. After Mas failed twice to be invested as President, since CUP repeatedly refused to support him, former Mayor of Girona and President of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI), Carles Puigdemont, emerged as the candidate of consensus. Then, a term of office defined as ‘exceptional’ started, with the aim of launching a pro-independence roadmap and putting in place the basis for the future Catalan Republic.