Thursday, December 11, 2014

Heightened meetings of Catalan President and ERC leader towards running together in early elections

Meetings between pro-independence politicians and civil society organisations are being held and will increase over the next few days, in order to explore the possibilities of forming a shared electoral list to run in early Catalan Parliament elections, which should be transformed into a 'de facto' referendum on independence from Spain. 

The opposition leader and President Mas. Stock photo
However there are two main obstacles for this scenario. Firstly, the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Artur Mas, is reluctant to call early elections if a shared candidature with the left-wing pro-independence party ERC – open to many independents and other parties – is not formed. Secondly, the President of the ERC, Oriol Junqueras, wants to run separately, highlighting the need to debate on social issues and corruption as well. Besides these two official reasons, the approval of the Catalan Government's budget for 2015 is also at stake and it is probably the main obstacle for early elections. 

The CiU needs additional parliamentary support to pass the bill but, so far, the ERC is not willing to do so, despite it having backed the budget in 2013 and 2014. This Wednesday, Mas and Junqueras met and have agreed to increase the contact with other parties and civil society in the coming days. After contacting the different political, economic and social actors of the Catalan society, the two leaders will be meeting again "to compare opinions and views". 
The Catalan Government and the CiU are confident that an agreement will be finally reached. Junqueras stated that the meeting with Mas went "quite well". However an ERC spokesperson also started to accuse Mas of "kidnapping the [independence] process" by imposing a shared list as the condition for calling early elections, since he is the only person who can dissolve the Catalan Parliament before the end of the legal term. Such accusations against Mas have also been stressed by other pro-self-determination parties, such as the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA.


8 days after Junqueras turned down Mas' offer of running together in early elections, the two of them met this Wednesday at the Catalan President's official residence, the Casa dels Canonges (the Canons' House, in Catalan, since it used to host these clergymen from the adjacent Barcelona's Cathedral). According to sources from both the ERC and the Catalan Government, the meeting went "well" or "quite well". However, the Executive is insisting on the need to form a single "national list" as the condition to call early elections. Without this agreement, Mas would not call Catalan Parliament elections in the coming months, they state. The electoral calendar is therefore Mas' best asset to negotiate with the ERC and the approval of the Catalan Government's budget is one of the main trading elements. Junqueras is optimistic about finding "a way of understanding in order to work on independence and build a fairer and freer country".

The Catalan President officially wants a main pro-independence electoral list because he believes that a single candidature could earn more MPs than separate lists combined, due to its magnet effect and the D’Hondt method. Furthermore, a single list would ease the interpretation of results by the international community, according to him. However, there is an additional advantage for Mas: running together with the ERC would avoid the risk of being overtaken by Junqueras' party and losing the next elections, as several polls have being pointing out over the last few months. Mas publicly stated he is willing not to top such shared list, but he also offered to do so, the option offering him the main guarantees for re-election.

Besides, Junqueras believes that separate lists would earn more votes than a single candidature since each voter could support the pro-independence candidature that better suits the economic and social model that he or she prefers, and therefore no pro-independence voters would feel excluded by a single list. After years of budget cuts affecting public services and manifold corruption scandals, some of which have greatly affected the CiU, the ERC leader thinks that some left-wing and pro-independence citizens would be reluctant to vote for a candidature including the CiU or some of its leading members. However, the ERC has also their own interest in running separately: for the first time in the current democratic regime the ERC has the opportunity of becoming the most voted party and therefore Junqueras could become the next Catalan President. 

ACN

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