After the cancellation of the original non-binding referendum vote scheduled for the 9th of November and the Catalan Government's decision to launch an alternative "participatory process", a new period started in which parties are preparing for hypothetical early elections, transformed into a 'de facto' referendum on independence.
The parliamentary stability alliance between the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the opposition left-wing Catalan independence party ERC is seriously damaged and it could even be broken. This affects the approval of the Catalan Government's budget for 2015, which is being prepared during the current weeks, and it also affects a potential electoral alliance between these two forces regarding such a plebiscite on independence. However, at the same time, several leading figures of CiU and ERC publicly stated they are open to the possibility of running in a broad alliance, including respected independents. Such a formula could also be backed by the two main civil society associations that organised the massive pro-independence demonstrations in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural.
However their official stance will be known on Sunday, after this Thursday evening they met with the President of the Catalan Government and CiU's leader, Artur Mas. Meanwhile, the sectors against independence within the CiU are working towards changing parliamentary allies and avoiding early elections. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) ), which opposes independence and the 9th of November's non-binding referendum vote, but backs Catalonia's right to self-determination, would be the only option. And the PSC's leadership is willing to support the CiU in exchange for cooling down self-determination and independence demands.
Catalan politics is at boiling point these days, particularly after the President of the Catalan Government announced the cancellation of the original non-binding referendum vote and the launch of a participatory process, while admitting that early elections would be "the definitive referendum" on independence. However, Mas did not announce he was calling such early elections and asked political parties to convince him that they would transform such early elections into a de facto referendum, as otherwise he does not see the need to call them. Mas is also the CiU leader and this was interpreted as a message to the ERC and the rest of parties and civil society organisations backing independence.
The CiU is formed by the Liberal CDC – led by Mas – and the Christian-Democrat UDC. The centre-right CiU and social-democrat ERC were the three main parties within the pact for the self-determination non-binding referendum vote scheduled for the 9th of November. The other parties were the Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA and the alternative left and radical independence party CUP. As preparations for the 9th of November would have required breaking Spanish law at a certain point (taking into account the temporary suspension decided by the Constitutional Court), tensions between the 6 parties were raised, as some were pushing for going ahead while others were reluctant to take such a step, particularly the CiU. Finally, the opinion of governing CiU prevailed and the non-binding referendum vote was cancelled, breaking the unity of action of the 6 parties. Now, there are efforts to work together again on different fronts, while UDC is looking for new allies.
The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is federated to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) that opposes Catalonia's right to self-determination has offered its support to the CiU. However their main condition would be that the CiU stop the current self-determination process and start negotiations with the Spanish Government for a change of the current Constitution to grant Catalonia more powers, a Constitutional Reform that the Spanish Government and the People's Party (PP) totally reject. This alliance is the formula preferred by the UDC's leadership and it has held several meetings with the PSC in order to avoid early elections and finish the current parliamentary term in Autumn 2016. The PSC has admitted to having had meetings in the last few days with UDC's leader, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida to discuss future cooperation agreements.
Meanwhile the CDC would be working towards an electoral alliance with the ERC to run in early Catalan Parliament elections. There are two main obstacles: ERC's lack of trust after the CiU broke the non-binding referendum vote's pact and ERC's will to make a unilateral declaration of independence just after winning the early elections, if they were to win. The CDC rejects such a rush and wants a negotiation with international institutions and the Spanish authorities first. This Thursday, the CDC's 'number 2', Josep Rull, urged the ERC to start negotiating with them and he insisted that before the unilateral declaration, negotiations are needed in order to respect International Law. Rull insisted that for them this is a red line not to be crossed. In addition, he also insisted that before a declaration of independence, state structures such as a tax agency are to be in place in order to be ready and fully operational from day one. Such structures would need some time to be built and to be operational.
Furthermore, the CDC and ERC have been holding separate meetings with the civil society organisation ANC and Òmnium in order to work on a shared list for the early elections. The ANC and Òmnium would be backing a pro-independence coalition with several parties in it if the early elections that would become a de facto plebiscite on independence were taking place within the next 3 months.