Misc 06/01/2016

Mas blames CUP for return to polls

Joan Rusiñol
4 min

If there is no unexpected twist, like the ones that only happen in films, on Monday Artur Mas will put an end to the shortest legislative term in the history of Catalonia as an autonomy and will sign a decree of new elections, probably for March 6th. The refusal by the CUP to invest Mas as president has made the first majority of pro-independence MPs in history unworkable. There are still four days to reach an agreement in extremis, but the tone of, and essence behind, the Acting President of the Generalitat´s words yesterday made clear that the nation will be heading back to the polls.

Mas appeared the day after analyzing, with his party, the situation, and just after "talking calmly" of the political moment with his government. At the same time, in Parliament, Junts pel Sí (JxSí-- Together for Yes) tried to come together on the same page, after realizing that, at this point, Convergència and Esquerra have already implemented different strategies. The coalition´s message was to insist on the need to exhaust the time available--"we are obliged to try until the whistle sounds", said Raül Romeva-- and thus accepted a last meeting with the anti-capitalist left and the pro-independence organizations. Without moving even one millimeter, the members of the CUP had asked by letter for the meeting with JxSí, while the ANC had proposed the summit to head off the prospect of new elections.

The willingness to meet, however, has scarce possibilities of turning the situation around. The CUP is maintaining their veto of Mas-- in fact, the alternative left is already looking to other leftist parties with an eye on the elections-- and JxSí will not consider changing its candidate. This is the impasse that has led to the need for a new vote, six months after the 27-S elections, a plebiscite that resulted in 48% of the votes for the two parties openly in favor of independence.

The acting president explained yesterday why, from his point of view, the largest force in Parliament cannot make any more "concessions", after three months of intense negotiations to advance in an emergency social plan-- which will be put in place as much as possible in spite of the failure to invest a president--, the break with Spain, and the constitutional process. According to Mas, it is necessary to say no to the CUP´s demands for two reasons. The first is "effectiveness": the independence movement also needs the moderate classes and the centrist vote traditionally represented by Convergencia (CDC), and, given this, it is "a mistake of gigantic proportions" to try to impose "vetos" instead of being inclusive. The second reason is a question of "dignity": "The presidency of the Generalitat is not a fish auction", the president stated. Mas admitted that new elections are not the desired option, but to "save the process" ERC, CDC, and independent MPs cannot cede any more, including the possible change in presidential candidate that the CUP is calling for. He thereby made clear that he has no intention of stepping aside now, and, as he noted on Monday, he is still eager to take on the coming challenge.

Gabriel responds to criticism

While waiting for the legal term for investiture to expire, Mas took advantage of the appearance before the press to tell his story of what has transpired during the past few months. For the first time, the president harshly attacked the attitude maintained by the CUP. Or, as he noted, half of the organization, and expressed gratitude for those who were in favor of moving the 27-S mandate forward, personifying this in the former CUP leader Antonio Baños, who resigned this week. Mas recognized his and JxSí´s "mistake" in "trusting in the national feeling" of the CUP. He said that the followers of Anna Gabriel had prioritized ideology in the right-left axis: "Only with those who wanted a hyper-revolution of the far left were we unable to even reach the corner", he said.

Gabriel responded in the afternoon by criticizing the "aggressiveness" of Mas, whose words she qualified as "confrontational and fratricidal" and which she considered a "lack of respect". "At the very least they fell under the guise of provocation", said the MP. It was a dialectic exchange that made clear the extent to which the relationship between the two sides has eroded. Meanwhile, the pre-election fog has begun to cover up the voices that are still calling for using all of the remaining time to continue negotiating. Until Monday there will be two overlapping plans: an attempt by all of the players to begin to define their own electoral space, and the need to not be the first to lock away all possibility of a mutual understanding. The battle for the story penalizes those who get up first from the table, even if the hope for an agreement is now very slim. For this reason, the CUP denied in a press release the immobility of which they are accused and insisted in the idea that the ball is now in JxSí´s court.

They will not seek other partners

Once the new elections are officially confirmed, it will be time to resolve certain unknowns that are beginning to be outlined, such as whether CDC and ERC will repeat the formula of running jointly, or at what point it is better to seek a victory in the pro-independence center-right and center-left, respectively. Yesterday, Mas did not want to entertain any of these types of questions, but warned that there was no room for fundamental twists because "there is no solid alternative project" to independence. It´s for this same reason that neither are they considering sounding out a new dance partner so as not to have to depend on the CUP. The president tried to sell an image of unity with Oriol Junqueras, who had vehemently called for CDC and the CUP to reach an understanding. Mas only noted that negotiation is everyone´s job, including ERC.

With a confidence that has had more patience than Job, according to him, Mas pointed the way to a road to elections that seems inevitable.