ROGER MATEOS / ORIOL MARCH
Only 48 hours ago, the word "separation" couldn’t be found in the public vocabulary of CDC and Unió leaders when referring to their relationship. The use of expressions as dramatic as this were confined to private confessions, where talk of an eventual breakup had become rather more common. Suddenly, the collision of recent days between the members of the federation regarding the debate over independence broke the taboos to which they had become accustomed during 37 years of political marriage. After an unusual Wednesday, when Unió decided to abandon the government so as not to have to commit to a pro-independence agenda for the September 27th (27-S) elections, yesterday Artur Mas announced in Parliament what the leadership of CDC had decided the night before behind closed doors: the dissolution of CiU had begun. This breakup, according to sources close to Mas, represents "the first act" in an operation that he has prepared to strengthen the plebiscite nature of 27-S.
Early in the morning, the president of the Generalitat took advantage of the Parliamentary session to offer clues as to what the next steps will be. Almost all of the parliamentary spokespersons were poking at the wound of the CDC/Unió divorce, and in all cases Mas responded with calendar information and clarifications on the breakup. First, he announced that on Monday morning he would undertake the government reshuffle by naming replacements for the three Unió ministers who have resigned: Joana Ortega, Ramon Espadaler, and Josep Maria Pelegrí.
Waiting for the "new ministers"
Although within nationalist circles there was speculation on Wednesday over the possibility of no new names being added and a temporary fusion of the three vacant ministries with other departments, Mas put this rumor to rest by mentioning the naming of "new ministers" that will join the Government. They will not be, according to sources in the Generalitat, appointments with eyes set on 27-S but, rather, focused on guaranteeing management continuity in these final months in office. Thus, the candidates could be specialists that are already working in the field --Agriculture, Interior and Administration-- in their parliamentary responsibilities or in the Generalitat. Among the nationalist leaders it’s taken for granted that Francesc Homs will be in charge of the campaign for the plebiscite elections and could give up his role as government spokesman.
In describing the confrontation that "forces” Mas to remake his cabinet, the president made it clear that "this is not for silly reasons, nor for an absurd quarrel", but rather for an "underlying issue", such as what position to take regarding independence. The "separation", added Mas, will be as painless and with as much agreement as possible. He wants it to be a controlled explosion. "A friendly separation is what everyone wants", he said. Hours later, the general coordinator of CDC, Josep Rull, also used the idea of "friendly split", but was more blunt: "CiU as a political project is finished". It was the epitaph to a story --forged at the time of the birth of Spain’s decentralization-- that has eventually been knocked down by the independence bid. "We have reached a point of no return", he stated.
Nobody from Unió showed up to contradict him. The mindset of both leaderships is unabashed, and everyone assumes that they will run separately on 27-S. While formalizing the rupture, Artur Mas appeared relieved and spoke explicitly of the perspective of an "independent state". The election of September 27th, he said, must be a "true plebiscite". "This is not a normal regional election for doing the same as always", he said. And he reproached those who wanted to introduce "other parameters". This is the recrimination that CDC has directed at ERC for attempting to combine the right/left political axis with the independence debate.
To show that he is not looking for a public quarrel with Unió, Mas, from his seat, declared himself to be "very content" with the work of the three Unió ministers, a gesture that Espadaler reciprocated by thanking him for his "trust". The agreed-upon breakup means that the MPs from Unió will continue to guarantee the stability of the government until the end of the legislative term. And if need be, yesterday Oriol Junqueras also noted that ERC "is at the service" of the government to insure the elections of 27-S.
Share of local power
CDC and Unió also want to minimize damage on the local level. Although in preceding days CDC’s strategy was to assert its territorial weight to keep all of the representation in the local governments and to limit Unió’s influence in the county councils, yesterday the plan had changed. This newspaper learned from sources who are familiar with the negotiation that the goal now is to reach an agreement on the share of local representation. Where sparks could fly is the Spanish parliament in Madrid. Rull warned that the continuity of Duran as spokesman for CiU is by no means guaranteed. Today CDC representatives and senators are meeting in Madrid to discuss it. "Nothing will be as it was before", warned Convergència. Tension is also mounting within Unió, due to disagreements with leadership over the decision to leave the Catalan government. Many of the Christian-democrat government apointees do not agree with the decision, beginning with the Secretary for Universities and Research, Antoni Castellà, the visible leader of the dissenters. Mas is not planning to remove any Unió office holder who does not request it, in a nod to the pro-independence members of Unió.
As a matter of fact, Mas will take advantage of this split as a starting point to accelerate his plan towards 27-S. "We will start an operation with the mindset of turning the elections into a referendum", explained sources close to him, in comments to ARA yesterday. Tomorrow, in a conference in Molins de Rei, he will offer the first details of how he wants to manage his candidacy, and during the month of July new phases of the campaign will be rolled out that will "break with conventional plans". One of the major distinguishing features will be the format of the lists of candidates.
During CDC’s latest national council, on May 30th, Mas had already previewed a few ideas. First, according to sources present at the meeting, he said that he wanted to head the list. He indicated that he would only continue if on 27-S they earned at least "one seat more" than the second most voted party. He also reiterated that these would be the last elections that he would run in, and clarified that the list would also incorporate "Unió, or the pro-independence members of Unió". Given the break with the Christian-democrats, he can only count on the latter.
There will also be mayors and other assets of CDC, but the bulk of the lists for 27-S that Mas will present will be composed of prestigious pro-independence figures from civil society, of different stripes but with the common goal of independence. Mas asked his national councilors to show "generosity", as the party will take a backseat to the main goal. He also has in mind the creation of a volunteer movement, without party affiliation but committed to achieving a "Yes" vote for independence.
There are only 100 days to go before 27-S. During this time CiU will continue to finalize its dissolution and discuss questions such as the split of its debt --over nine million euros spent on campaigns-- and the subsidies for running in elections. There are no more meetings scheduled for the joint leadership of CiU. Despite the intention to have a peaceful end, the looming electoral push could end up contaminating this process of separation.
"Ara es l’hora" (Now is the Time) will focus its 27-S campaign on undecided voters
The joint platform Now is the Time, led by the ANC and Òmnium Cultural, will dedicate the 100 days remaining before 27-S to mount "the most powerful campaign" to guarantee a victory on 27-S, as explained yesterday by the presidents of both groups, Jordi Sànchez and Muriel Casals, respectively. The campaign will have four fundamental axes with two objectives: to grasp the doubts about independence via a telephone mega-survey, and to persuade as many undecided voters as possible, a group that could tip the balance to a majority in the fall elections. Now is the Time, which this year relies on the active involvement of former ICV MEP Raül Romeva, will also hold ten major events this summer around the fundamental pillars of the future of the country, such as social justice, democratic regeneration, and equality. These ten fundamental principles will come together in the biggest rally ever: the event of September 11th on Barcelona’s Avinguda Meridiana, on the day when the electoral campaign for 27-S kicks off.