Catalan President Artur Mas today said that a "definitive vote" on independence from Spain should be held by turning an ordinary Catalan election into a de facto referendum. Mas said this after admitting that a non-binding referendum on independence will not be hold on November 9th as it had been planned, but in an alternative way.
Mas signed on September 27th a decree calling a non-binding independence vote. But the decree was challenged by the Spanish government, and Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the vote shortly after on the grounds that the vote was unconstitutional.
Faced with this reality, Mas today announced that the Catalan government will still organise an independence vote on November 9th, using alternative powers it has over "citizen participation."
Even though, the Spanish government today warned that this November 9th alternative vote could also be challenged since the question will be the same, i.e. a question on Catalan independence from Spain.
Even if finally held, the strength and the significance of the alternative November 9th vote could now appear as having been watered down. Mas himself today admitted the November 9th vote will only be an "early vote" pending the de facto referendum election.
"Referendum won by absolute majority"
Elaborating on the idea of the referendum election, Mas said that pro-independence parties should join into "a single list with a single manifesto." If that list "obtains an absolute majority, then the referendum is won. This is the final tool for a definitive vote," Mas argued.
Pro-independence parties include Mas's CDC (centre-right), head of opposition Oriol Junqueras's ERC (centre-left), and democratic socialist CUP. Words by Mas can be understood as a way of pressing Junqueras to accept a CDC-ERC coalition that would then seek an absolute majority in the Catalan Parliament with a mandate to lead Catalonia towards independence.
But it is unclear that ERC could accept such a deal, since Junqueras's party is at the moment reluctant to the idea. On the one hand, opinion polls say ERC could become the strongest party in the Parliament of Catalonia for the first time since the 1930s. ERC leaders could thus prefer running under different lists, albeit sharing a single item manifesto on independence. On the other, what the commitment of the CDC-ERC deal would be has not been agreed yet. ERC has said it wants unilaterally declaring independence after the vote, whereas CDC is more inclined to trying to negotiate secession with Spain.
For their part, CUP leaders today reiterated they will never agree to a joint list with CDC because of irreconcilable ideological differences.
Rajoy says vote cancellation "excellent news"
Meanwhile, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy argued the announcement of the vote cancellation was "excellent news", El País reports. He said this before knowing that Mas was anyway planning to hold an alternative vote on November 9th.
Rajoy again offered "dialogue" to the Catalan government, but also again the Spanish President did not elaborate on any concrete proposal for a better accommodation of Catalonia within Spain.