Parties supporting the self-determination vote scheduled for the 9th of November met on Monday in Barcelona to discuss whether to carry on the consultation vote as it is currently planned or to launch instead an alternative way in order to allow Catalans to have their say on their collective future, in view of the total opposition from the Spanish authorities to the current self-determination process. According to two parties present at the meeting, the Catalan Government has ruled out the organisation of the consultation as had beendesigned by the decree that has been temporarily suspended by the Constitutional Court. The main reason would be that the vote does not have enough democratic guarantees given all the legal obstacles thrown in its way by the Spanish Executive.
Instead, the Catalan Government would have proposed organising a “participatory process” on the same day, using the legislation that has not been suspended by the Constitutional Court. It is not clear whether this alternative would include ballot boxes or not. This alternative should be disclosed on Tuesday morning by the Catalan President, Artur Mas. The Spanish Government already said on Friday it will also appeal against such an alternative. Right now, there is no consensus on holding the 9thof November vote as designed and nor on having early elections as an alternative, although it seems the most likely option. If parties clearly supporting independence were to win those elections, a unilateral declaration of independence would be backed by a democratic mandate.
The left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, which is Mas’ main ally, has announced through a press release that does not back such an alternative and states that, if Catalans cannot hold a self-determination consultation vote, the next step should be early elections and a unilateral declaration of independence. However, they have also added that they will help the Catalan Government to ensure that Catalans can vote. The Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA has stated that they will wait to know Mas’ proposal in order to decide their stance. The alternative left and radical independence party CUP stressed that they will work to keep the consultation vote on the 9th of November and have organised an assembly this very same night to decide what to do next. The two-party centre-right pro-Catalan state coalition (CiU), which runs the Catalan Government since 2010 and is formed by the Liberal CDC and Christian-Democrat UDC, has not said anything and will for its leader and Catalan President, Artur Mas, to talk on Tuesday at 10am.
The political unity of action seems to be broken
After manifold meetings in the last 10 days between the 6 parties supporting the self-determination vote scheduled for the 9th of November, it seems that their unity of action is broken. In the last days, many voices, including that of the Catalan President, had warned against breaking this unity. However, some parties have serious doubts about, or directly oppose, openly challenging the Spanish authorities, which have temporarily banned the consultation vote, and other parties are clearly proposing the continuationwith the vote as planned, regardless of the legal consequences. The first group do not want to break Spanish legislation and the second consider that the Catalan legislation and the clear democratic mandate resulting from the last elections of 2012, combined with the wide social support expressed through colossal demonstrations, are enough.
On Thursday afternoon and evening, the 6 parties already held a tense meeting, which ended late at night and without public statements by the participants. On top of this, over the last four days, the Catalan Government had already begun not following the suspended decree, given for example that it has not published the register of voters (equivalent to the electoral census) that was due on the 10th of October and it has not launched the process to vote by mail.
The Catalan Government does not want to openly challenge Spanish authorities
This Monday, the 6 parties have held their 3rd “summit” in 10 days, as it was called by the Catalan press. In the end, the Catalan Government has decided to abandon the plans to hold the vote in the exact same way as it had been announced, in view of the legal obstacles of the Spanish Government. This was first confirmed by the ICV-EUiA leader Joan Herrera just after the meeting and a few minutes later by the ERC’s press release. The Catalan Executive would consider that the obstacles put forward by the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, are making it very hard or even virtually impossible to hold a consultation vote with enough democratic guarantees and reject openly challenging the Constitutional Court by carrying on with the vote preparations.
In fact, in the last few days, several leading figures of the block supporting the consultation vote had insisted that if it could not be held in a proper way, it should be ruled out and an alternative should be launched. This is the case of the Christian-Democrat party UDC, the smallest force within the CiU. It is also the case of the Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA. These 3 parties (UDC, ICV and EUiA) defend self-determination and the creation of a Catalan state, but they do not have an official stance on whether this state should be independent from Spain and remain within a Spanish federation or confederation. However, the ICV-EUiA is not welcoming early elections as a substitute for the self-determination vote.
Early elections as a plebiscite on independence?
Furthermore, on Monday, Carles Viver i Pi-Sunyer, President of the Council for the National Transition, which is a Catalan Government’s advisory body on the self-determination process formed by prestigious independent experts, stated that it would “not be dramatic” to rule out the consultation vote on the 9th of November and hold early elections instead where parties would clearly say whether they would declare independence or not. In this second scenario, if a majority of parties clearly supporting independence were to win this plebiscite, the new Parliament and Government would then start working towards building the new Catalan State and declare independence, following the new democratic mandate that would result from the ballot boxes.