Francesc Homs is representing Democràcia i Llibertat (Democracy and Freedom) in the upcoming general elections of 20 December in Spain, where his party—a coalition that brings together Catalonia’s main separatist party and other smaller, centrist political parties—will be defending the independence victory obtained in the 27 September regional elections in Catalonia.

Homs believes that, for those who support breaking away from Spain, voting in Sunday’s election is almost an obligation, as every available platform should be used to promote the separatist sentiment. The independence movement, in his opinion, is a democratic movement that must always seize the opportunity to express itself at the ballot box. Homs also warns about the potential impact that a unionist victory would have on the progress toward the construction of an independent Catalan state.

—What three reasons for voting would you give to the separatists who do not believe in voting in a Spanish election?
—First, given the fact that conquering our independence is something we have already decided on and that we will only be able to accomplish it through democratic channels, every time we have the opportunity to vote, we must make our presence known, regardless of what the circumstances are. Whenever we have the chance to vote, we need to make our voices heard. For a separatist, this is an obligation. We must prove that we are the majority. The second reason is just to shock independence opponents when they see the results on election night—that alone makes voting worthwhile. The third reason is, as Joan Fuster put it, that politics is either something you do or else it will be done to you. And obviously, I don’t think we can expect much from Madrid. But we must engage with them in order to say that we are doing our best to reach a negotiated agreement on independence, because that would be of benefit to them, as well as to us. We will say to them that if they refuse to negotiate, we will move forward regardless. That is where there has been a sea change in our strategy of defending Catalonia, because we have decided that we will no longer place our nation in other people’s hands. We have to explain this to Madrid; voicing this in that context is akin to voicing it before the international community.

—The Spanish election will also be read by the international community in terms of what it means with regard to Catalonia.

—Yes. This is another reason for independence supporters to show up and cast a vote for one of the two separatist candidates. I would find it very difficult to continue to defend the separatist cause in the same way if Citizens were the most voted party in Catalonia. How can we argue before the international community that Catalonia is on a path to independence if when we bring out the ballot boxes Citizens or Podemos win? Two political groups that do not support independence? How will we explain that? We must demonstrate that there is widespread support for independence in Catalonia.

—Should independence negotiations be carried out in parliament or between governments?
—Both in parliament and between governments. However, I have very little hope that there will be negotiations. Therefore, we must use every available platform or political space—parliament being one—to voice our position. In this respect, parliament can be instrumental. Whenever we have the opportunity to show that we are in favour of dialogue and civilized solutions, we must seize it. And this attitude is not at odds with simultaneously warning that we intend to see our plans through. We are offering a straightforward, mature, and logical way to solve the issue of separation. But it should be equally clear that we will see this through. We need to say to them [the Spanish government] that we should be speaking about debt, assets and liabilities, and behave in a way that befits a democracy. But, naturally, we will not be parroting this for years. I hope it will be a rather short period.

—Do you think that the referendum demand was abandoned too soon, considering the results of the regional election of 27 September?
—No. The demand for a referendum has not been abandoned. To the extent that we are democrats and want to defend our cause through democratic channels, the referendum will always be on the table. This is true for us as well as for ERC. In our program, Together for Yes states, literally, that it awaits a proposal from Spain to hold a referendum. We have not reneged on it. That said, it is no longer our main goal. The matter of independence was already voted on on 27 September. Some say we wanted to go too fast. But we have been in this struggle for three hundred years! We have made hundreds of attempts before the Spanish state. If there is one reproach that cannot be levied against Catalan nationalism, which today equals separatism, is that we have moved too fast. At some point, we needed to enter this new phase. Our priority is to achieve an independent state.

—Is it not a strategic mistake to allow parties which do not support independence to carry the banner of the referendum?
—Some of us engage in politics in order to change things. Others, it seems, engage in politics to say whatever sounds best at any given time. Everyone must choose what suits them best. If there is a referendum in the end it will not be because Podemos proposed it, but because the strength of the independence movement forced Spain to take action.

—Or because of international pressure.
—Exactly. But if it ever comes, it will not be through the work of those who always seem the last on the bandwagon with their demands. Some people, like us, have been the advance team with our claims. And others always seem to be a season or two behind. It warms my heart to see that the PP is now such a staunch defender of the constitution it refused to support. These people are thirty-seven years behind. It warms my heart to see the socialists now advocating a federal model they discarded ten years ago. It warms my heart to see Podemos come out in support of a referendum when they were either silent or missing in action when it was proposed in Catalonia. That is the sequence of events. The question people should ask is ‘who is the engine of change’. And the answer is that we separatists are.

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