Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Monday, 20 july 2015 | FINANCIAL TIMES


Catalan pro-independence leaders form joint platform



For much of this year, the campaign for Catalan independence has appeared to be stuck in a rut.
Absorbed by internal struggles and fatigued by the intensity of the recent offensive, the pro-independence movement seemed unsure how to escalate the campaign. The relative silence from Catalonia was met with relief in Madrid, raising hopes that the long-running struggle between the central government and the rebellious region might be abating.

Over the past few days, however, Catalan campaigners have sent a clear message to supporters and detractors alike: not so fast.

In a political breakthrough, the leaders of the region’s main pro-independence parties announced they had set aside their recent squabbles and formed a joint political platform. Rather than stand separately in forthcoming regional elections, they will campaign as a unified list.

Analysts say the agreement is important because it increases the chances that the vote on September 27 will be seen not as a normal election but as a quasi-referendum on independence.

If the joint list garners enough support, pro-independence leaders will feel emboldened — and legitimised — to press for a historic break with Spain within 18 months.

At the centre of the new accord are the conservative Convergència Democràtica party (CDC), which is led by the Catalan president Artur Mas, and the leftwing Esquerra Republicana movement.

The list also includes independent politicians and prominent grassroots activists. Full details of the list will be revealed on Monday, but officials say it has already been agreed that Mr Mas will continue to serve as president if the united platform emerges triumphant in September.
 “Artur Mas basically got what he wanted,” said Antonio Barroso, a political analyst at Teneo Intelligence. “He knew that if he campaigned by himself he might be decimated. Now everything depends on the election. They have a clear road map towards independence and are ready to launch into an open confrontation with the central government.”

Recent opinion polls suggest, however, that the pro-independence camp faces an uphill struggle. Support for the creation of an independent Catalan state has declined markedly since the start of the year.

According to a recent survey by Catalonia’s state-run CEO research centre, only 38 per cent of Catalans say they want an independent state, compared with 45 per cent last year.

The pro-independence movement has also been hit by the rise of new political parties such as the anti-austerity Podemos movement and the centrist Ciudadanos party.

Ciudadanos, which was formed in Catalonia but is now winning support across the country, is a hardline anti-independence party. Podemos says it is in favour of an independence referendum, but supports the unity of Spain.

Both parties, however, appear to have helped nudge the Catalan political debate away from its fixation on independence — and towards social and economic matters.

According to the latest poll published in the Barcelona newspaper El Periódico, the two main pro-independence parties would together win no more than 55 seats in the regional parliament. That is 13 seats short of an absolute majority, and less than the two parties won separately at the last election.

Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, has insisted that the joint list will make no difference to Catalonia’s chances of winning independence.

“There will be no Catalan independence,” he said. “We are talking about regional elections. The only thing people are voting on is the regional parliament — nothing else.”


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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia