Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont: Why Spain’s Elections Don’t Matter (Newsweek)
Puigdemont is pushing ahead with his country’s plan for independence.
Josh Lowe.- “The independence project in Catalonia,” the region’s new president, Carles Puigdemont, told London’s Chatham House think tank during a visit last week, “is… a peaceful revolution, carried out in suit, shirt and tie.”
A serious-looking man in wire-framed glasses who sometimes surprises you with the force of what comes out of his mouth, Puigdemont sums up the Catalan government’s dilemma. It needs to play a game of brinksmanship to deliver the secession from Spain it hopes it can secure in under 18 months, without scaring off the moderate voters and international allies it needs to back it.
Puigdemont, formerly mayor of Girona, took over from his predecessor Artur Mas in January, and nothing, he insists, can stand in Catalonia’s way.
Faced with seemingly unending political deadlock in Madrid as Spain heads for its second round of elections in six months on June 26, Puigdemont is looking to paint Catalonia as practically independent already. “Catalan politics emancipated from the Spanish politics on September 27, 2015,” he tells Newsweek, speaking via a translator, during his visit, at the Catalan Delegation in London. “Since then, we’ve acted with a sovereign mentality, political sovereignty.”
He insists that he doesn’t have a preferred result, and is dismissive of the new left-wing party Podemos, the only major Spanish party to support a Catalan independence referendum. “They don’t have enough political strength… probably the resulting coalition in the next election will be towards the right.”
Rather than waiting for a favorable government in Madrid—the current administration has previously denied Catalonia the legal right to a referendum—Puigdemont is determined to continue with the “roadmap to independence” set in motion in November 2015 after pro-independence parties won the region’s parliamentary elections that September. The plan involves creating all the machinery of an independent state, and holding a referendum on the constitution that, assuming it goes the right way, will be treated by the government as a mandate for secession.
A part of Puigdemont must have been terrified when he took on the role? He laughs. “This project is not… an 18-month project. It’s actually been going on for five years and this is our last milestone.”
It’s true that victory for the government would mark the end point of a long push for independence that began in 2010, when Spain’s constitutional court overturned the result of a 2006 referendum granting greater autonomy to the region. An unofficial poll in November 2014 saw 80 percent of those who voted backing independence, albeit on a low turnout. But Spain has consistently refused to deem the secessionist cause legitimate. The Catalan government said it would prefer a negotiated settlement, rather than a unilateral departure: “We have opted from the outset for dialogue, negotiation and consensus,” Puigdemont told Chatham House.
Full original article: http://europe.newsweek.com/catalonia-carles-puigdemont-spain-independence-podemos-461430