Mas foresees elections if Madrid strikes down 9-N
ARA – Outlines option for still-uncertain plebiscite election and calls for unity in a sovereignty coalition that appears fragile
Roger Mateos, Barcelona.- A brief and concise note in the final five minutes of Artur Mas’ speech was enough to set the tone for the three days of general political debate that kicked off yesterday in Parliament. The president of the Generalitat had exceeded the hour and ten minutes allotted to him when he set out a warning that could revolutionize the political story of the next few months in Catalonia: “If possible I’d like to finish this term when scheduled, at the end of 2016. I’d like for that to be possible. But even if that is mostly in my hands, it’s not completely in my hands. For that to be so, we must be able to vote on 9 November with complete democratic guarantees”.
It was a passing remark that, by the way, had not been included in the 22 pages of the speech distributed by his press office. Formally, though, Mas positioned himself in a scenario in which a consultation could take place with normality. “I’m confident that it will be possible to vote on 9 November with full democratic guarantees” he said. To make the polling more palatable to Madrid, he highlighted three ideas: the result of the consultation would not be binding, the formula of the twin questions accommodates three alternatives–independence, status quo, or third way–, and that nowhere is it written which option will win. “The game must be played. And I haven’t marked the cards. The voters will decide”, he proclaimed. Mas also believes that it will be “good for Europe” to reward a movement inspired in “democracy” and “civility”, which springs from the fact that many people in Catalonia have “disconnected” emotionally from the Spanish state, with support for the right to vote. The “angry Catalan” expression that became famous after the trimming of the Catalan Statute has given way to the “excited Catalan” (excited about independence). But according to Mas it’s pointless to talk about a “train crash”, because Catalonia and Spain are on “a different set of tracks”. “In fact, the trains are drawing apart”, he stressed.
The hints about early elections represent, in part, a warning to Mariano Rajoy: if he pushes to destroy the consultation on 9 November he could find himself with plebiscite elections that would accelerate the process through done deeds. Some time ago, Josep A. Duran i Lleida put a name to what he thought would be an undesirable alternative: unilateral declaration of independence. However, no one doubts that the State will do everything within its power to strike down the consultation: Rajoy already has all the judicial artillery at hand to kill the Law of Consultations– which will be approved in the Parliament this Friday– and the convocation of the consultation that Mas will sign shortly thereafter. According to the Catalan government, the judges of the Constitutional Court could suspend the legal framework for the consultation as early as Tuesday 23 September, the date when they are due to meet.
Mas omits civil disobedience
The words of Mas, however, also serve as a warning to the voices– among which is the president of ERC, Oriol Junqueras– who are calling for Catalonia to disobey Spanish law and go ahead with the vote. Mas has imposed the condition that the consultation happen “with full democratic guarantees”, an expression that rejects the disobedience that Junqueras is preaching. The Catalan government has readied a strategy to fight a legal battle, and one of the hypotheses on the table is that ERC could join the governing coalition to shield the 9 November consultation– Junqueras hasn’t discounted the idea–, but sources within CiU recognize that the consultation cannot take place without the approval of the judiciary. Otherwise it would lose legitimacy in the eyes of the world, important municipalities could refuse to collaborate in the process, and a significant slice of the adversaries of independence would boycott it in order to delegitimize the participation. Josep Rull, number two in CDC, rejected a “sham” consultation.
What Mas did guarantee is that the only way out of this legal impasse is to vote, whether in the consultation on 9 November as planned or in plebiscite elections that, for now, none of his partners for the right to self-determination see clearly. Yesterday he called on the forces of self-determination to preserve a unity that he sees as fragile as “porcelain”. But Junqueras alerted this weekend in an interview in El Mundo that plebiscite elections would not be a good solution because “the proportional system would take away from its value as a referendum”. In early August Mas sounded out the ERC president about running as a single candidature in a hypothetical plebiscite election, a possibility that the republicans would only consider if it was to go ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence.
In the middle of a war of nerves
Duran also doesn’t consider elections as an optimal remedy for a prohibition of the consultation, and even less so if it implies a subsequent unilateral acceleration of the process. ICV-EUiA has already rejected the idea of joining any list together with Mas for a push towards statehood. For now, CDC only considers it as a lifeline now that its electoral prospects have hit bottom. But the script that each actor in this process will end up performing in the upcoming weeks is not yet written. “We are in a war of nerves, everything is open”, said nationalist sources yesterday.
Some of the unknowns could start to become clearer in today’s session of the general political debate. The face-to-face appearances of Mas and Junqueras will start at nine o’clock in the morning. The two have started talking again in the past few days to explore future scenarios, according to sources with knowledge of the conversations. The contents and tone they use today will tell much about the state of health of the pro-independence camp.