60-40 seat split, Mas gets presidency, plus clear road map: the ins and outs of the Palau pact
The summit went beyond discussing the separatist candidacies and they broached the subject of a “global” agreement to set the independence bid on the right track
BarcelonaThe agreement that the top brass of CDC and ERC are currently polishing up will only be formally presented in the Catalan parliament on Wednesday. Still, this newspaper has learned that the joint separatist list will feature both Artur Mas and Oriol Junqueras, as well as other political leaders, with the presidency being earmarked for Mas, even though he will not be heading the candidacy.
In other words, the agreement establishes a single, joint candidacy led by representatives from civil society, but featuring card-carrying party members. Sources familiar with the negotiations claim that CDC and ERC will split the slots reserved to politicians 60-40, with a formula that guarantees some seats for the new splinter parties, such as MES and Demòcrates de Catalunya (1). This is how things stand only hours away from the second summit (today at 16.30 in Palau de la Generalitat) that should serve to clinch the deal. The political manifesto of the new candidacy --whose name has not been disclosed yet-- will have a “strong social bias”.
Sources familiar with the negotiation have assured this newspaper that the agreement requires an independent consensus candidate to head the list, although both Artur Mas (CDC) and Oriol Junqueras (ERC) will run in a slot that ensures their reelection. The crux of the negotiation will be to find independent candidates that both political parties feel comfortable with.
So what unravelled a summit that seemed bound to be strained? According to sources familiar with the talks, “if we had only discussed the lists, we would have walked away from the table quite early on”. They added that “the debate required a wider focus”. So once the leaders of the grassroots groups had met in private with president Mas and responded to his call in Molins de Rei for a joint candidacy, the meeting opened up to the separatist parties --CDC, ERC and the CUP(2)-- and they discussed the scenario following the vote on September 27.
At the initial meeting, which was only attended by the leaders of the ANC, Òmnium and the AMI (3), they looked at the bigger picture and laid out a number of scenarios. Our sources claim that each actor set their own “red lines”. At that point, the CUP walked away from the negotiating table, as one of their conditions for joining the united candidacy was to be excluded from the new government. One of our sources noted that “besides deciding how we might best stand for the 27S election, we also needed to discuss the makeup of the new government”, which the CUP refused to be a part of.
The day after 27S: majorities in the cabinet and in parliament
After the elections, we may enter some sort of “variable geometry” phase. From an institutional standpoint, the process must be two-pronged, our sources say. One the one hand, “a parliamentary majority” must be secured; on the other hand, the government must implement the road map. Both “will require enough support. This also means ensuring that schools open up, that poverty is averted and infrastructures are secured”, said one of our sources, besides “clearing the runway for independence. The notion that independence might come without a government is a fairy tale”, they remarked.
The key to the agreement lies precisely with the realisation of the draft document agreed upon on March 30. ERC emphasised the need to ensure that Mas and his party, CDC, stood firmly behind independence every step of the way, outlining each and every measure to be taken after September 27, should the separatist parties obtain a majority at the polls. Our sources claim that only once Mas and CDC were fully committed was it possible to start negotiating a joint list.
Some sources are certain that this joint formula will be used again in the Spanish election, while others claim this is not in the cards.
The road map, a lure for the CUP
So, what role will the CUP play in all this? The anti-capitalist pro-independence party will not join the agreement for a single list and will run with a candidacy of its own, with a view to becoming a containment wall of sorts against an eventual convergence of the unionist left. The road map to independence will lure the CUP into the agreement.
As a matter of fact, the CUP’s role will be to join the separatist front in parliament. Whenever possible, the MPs of the parties that support the right to self-determination (but not necessarily independence: Podemos, ICV, EUiA and Procés Constituent) might join them, too. In the meantime, the responsibility to form a government and to execute the independence plan will rest mainly with CDC and ERC, who will form a coalition government.
The role of the grassroots groups
The pro-independence associations met president Mas at 1 pm in Palau de la Generalitat to give him a “formal” reply to the request he made at a rally in Molins de Rei. So, a “numerous” delegation of the ANC, Òmnium and the AMI stated their views for the president. While the ANC members had shown their support for “an all-embracing” candidacy and the National Board agreed to the proposal of a list without any politicians suggested by Òmnium, the ANC’s representatives conveyed a more measured stance to the president. As reported by this newspaper, last Tuesday the ANC board voted using a points system that allowed to rank the priorities of each member. Sources within the ANC’s leadership indicate that this offered them some room for manoeuvre. In fact, the second most voted option for the National Board was a single list that combined politicians and independent figures.
In this first meeting, Mas went over the “pros and cons” of a list that excluded all politicians but “didn’t put forward any specific proposals”. It should be remembered that the Catalan president and CDC leader had already expressed his reservations about such a candidacy and had indicated that the idea needed “perfecting”. In this sense, the grassroots groups --as they did with the agreement of January 14-- oversaw the pact: “we asked them to sit down, talk it through and come to an agreement”, said sources within the associations. “We were seeking the solution that could muster the most support”.
(1) N.T. MES and Demòcrates de Catalunya are smaller, pro-independence groups that split away from unionist parties PSC and Unió Democràtica.
(2) N.T. The CUP is a far-left, anti-capitalist party that supports Catalan independence.
(3) N.T. The ANC (Catalan National Assembly) and Òmnium Cultural are the main grassroots, non-partisan, pro-independence groups behind the September 11 demonstrations in Catalonia. The AMI is an association of local councils that support independence.