Catalan President Artur Mas (left picture, image by the Government of Catalonia) has said today that he is thinking about calling a "plebiscite election" in 2016 -the end of the current term- if Spain does not give the green light to a referendum on the independence of Catalonia next year. Mas has argued that he prefers to call the referendum in 2014, and in agreement with the Spanish government. But Madrid insists that such a vote would be illegal and that it will always be blocked by the Spanish institutions.
In such a scenario, Mas considers that it would be legitimate, as a last resort, to turn the 2016 Catalan election into a plebiscite on independence. This would pave the way for a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan Parliament, if pro-independence parties hold an absolute majority after the election.
Shortly after it has been known that Mas was contemplating the 2016 scenario, Carme Forcadell, President of the main pro-independence civil society association, the Catalan National Assembly, has said that in no way can Catalonia wait for three years more: "[The wait period] cannot go on till 2016", VilaWeb quotes her as saying. Forcadell has suggested that the plebiscite election could be held as Mas foresees, but earlier.
CiU-ERC agreement foresees referendum in 2014
Artur Mas started the current term as Catalan President after his party Convergence and Union (CiU, sovereignist centre-right) achieved an agreement with Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC, pro-independence, centre-left) in late 2012. According to the deal, a referendum on independence had to be called in 2014. And, it is written on the paper, only a new deal between both parties could delay the vote.
ERC insists that the referendum must be held in 2014, with or without the consent of the Spanish institutions.
After Mas's announcement, several ERC senior members have reacted on Twitter against the proposed delay on the vote. Party leader Oriol Junqueras has said that Catalonia "must decide its future in 2014", and that ERC will "do all in its power" so that the refendum be held next year. ERC MP Oriol Amorós has said that the referendum will be held in 2014 "under all circumstances". He has added that the date of the referendum will be known before the end of this year and has suggested that a delay could put an end to the current agreement between ERC and CiU.
If ERC refused to delay the vote, CiU could stand in power but in a minority position. Or either the party could look for other partners, such as conservative PP or social democrat PSC. But both parties are opposed to independence, so they would likely ask CiU to shelve the "plebiscite election" proposal.
Such a scenario would most likely lead to an early election. According to opinion polls, ERC could then win a relative majority, narrowly leading CiU.
Follow-up on Nationalia: Parliament declares Catalan people "a sovereign political and legal subject", Catalan Government advised to call referendum on independence between August and December 2014 and Catalonia to hold referendum on independence in 2014