Francesc-Marc Álvaro


Mas would give up top spot on the party list if CiU and ERC agree on joint candidacy

From the Catalan President's trusted inner cirle, a message has made its way to Oriol Junqueras and his team that Artur Mas would be willing to give up the first position on an electoral list if CiU and ERC come to an agreement on a joint candidacy for the Parliament in the event of plebiscitary-type elections, if the Spanish government prohibits the November 9th referendum, which seems likely, despite rumors of a hypothetical but unlikely offer from Moncloa (Spain's "White House"). Mas would "take a step back" to facilitate the broadest possible sovereignty list, in which the top positions were taken not by leaders of any party but by relevant personalities of the associationist, cultural, professional, and cultural life of the country. "We must be generous," said an independent sovereigntist who has contact with both parties.

The political scientist Lluís Juncà, Oriol Junqueras' chief of staff, has quietly mentioned in several settings that ERC's decision on a proposal of this type will depend, above all, on the commitment of CiU to come to a broader, more detailed agreement about what should happen the day after this eventual plebiscite. The Republicans hope to construct a road map that is as specific as possible with respect to the steps that should be taken, in the event that—as polls indicate—a multi-party pro-sovereignty candidacy obtain a broad enough, and solid enough majority in the Parliament in order to articulate a representative government that would be able to undertake Catalonia's secession. ERC's leadership—who is observing how its electoral growth cycle is converting them into the principal political force in the country, ahead of the currently-ruling CiU—would only give its OK to a broad-based coalition if it were directly tied to a schedule of priorities which would unambiguously translate the clear electoral commitment to independence into an institutional plan. The moment for a break would have arrived.

This assignment of the first positions to independent personalities would not imply, in any case, Artur Mas' resignation as leader of CiU (or of just the CDC, if that comes to pass), nor does it mean he would renounce leading the new government comprised of various formations committed to independence. Instead CiU and ERC could come to the conclusion that a staff that would manage the separation from Spain would have to have two leaders who would share the leadership and the responsibilities: a president and a head councilor, the latter of which could be perfectly developed by Oriol Junqueras. Behind the famous and notable on the list, Mas and Junqueras would also form part of the broad-based multi-party list and therefore, would be chosen as members of the new chamber which, indeed, would oversee the constituent period. Other leaders of CiU and ERC would also form part of this special candidacy, but more in the background.

The Republicans together with President Mas’ principal advisors agree on the necessity of adding to a broad list of this type leaders and famous personalities that come from the Socialist sphere who have demonstrated support for the right to decide, some of whom have left the PSC. It's important to remember that ERC, for its part, has already opened itself to these sectors via the electoral agreement with Nova Esquerra Catalana—Ernest Maragall's party—in the recent European elections, and contacts with other personalities that have evolved from federalism to pro-sovereignty positions.

On the other hand, with every passing day the possibility that ICV and the CUP will join a candidacy promoted by CiU and ERC seems more remote, especially given that neither the eco-socialists of ICV, nor the CUP want to set aside their criticisms of Mas' policies and above all, of the budget cuts. The most probable candidacy of the alterative left to the Barcelona City Government with respect to the municipal elections next year (with ICV, EUiA, CUP, Podemos and famous faces like Ada Colau) is not compatible with an alliance in which the right-left axis is set aside temporarily in order to achieve the goal of independence. It's also important to keep in mind that except for CUP, the rest of the alternative left does not share a single position on the project of an independent State, although they all support the right to decide.

One of the obstacles to CiU and ERC setting aside their respective identities and joining their legitimate common interests to create a broad-based pro-sovereignty list is the mistrust generated the last time the two parties tried such an experiment, before the recent European elections. Various sources agree that, at that time, an agreement was reached on a series of names to head the list—Germà Bel, Toni Comin—but partisan dynamics of all kinds ended up aborting the operation in the end. CiU says that Junqueras changed his mind at the last minute, and ERC says that CiU didn't offer enough guarantees. It came out that the negotiators from Convergència had expressed their willingness to give up their ties to their coalition partners, Unió, in the event that Duran would not accept a joint candidacy with ERC. This tug of war was followed closely by the leadership of the Catalan National Assembly, who was disappointed when the negotiations fell apart.

The future role of Duran inside or outside CiU, the pressure of particular economic elites, the weight of certain Republican strongholds, and the dynamics that come from local and county politics are also obstacles when considering a broad-based multi-party pro-sovereignty list for Parliament, promoted by Convergents and Republicans with prestigious independent names in the top positions. Mas and Junqueras know that they have to keep calm in order not to provoke more hostile reactions from those necessary players. ERC continues to generate too much nervousness in certain circles of business and financial power of Barcelona, the same ones that —given the situation—would help Duran set up a new Unió Democràtica.

After November 9th, we will begin a new phase called the "national transition", the acceleration of which will depend a good deal on ERC, who is the prime force that is sustaining the Government of Catalonia in the Parliament. The aforementioned plebiscitary elections could take place at the beginning of next year (before the anticipated municipal and Spanish state wide elections) or also in 2016, which is what Mas would prefer. During this long waiting period, pressure from Madrid will increase but on the other hand, the true strength —before the vote on independence—of the receding PP and PSOE would be clear. In particular circles, some have begun to consider the possibility of holding a plebiscite at the same time as the municipal elections, even given the risk of the distraction from Spanish-state wide elections, because this would facilitate the mobilization of forces all over the territory as well as synergies in the sovereignty block, which is especially active in many county seats.

This article by Francesc-Marc Álvaro was originally published on his blog, "Diari de la desconnexió" [Diary of the disconnection]