Barcelona (ACN).- Solidaritat per la Indepedència (SI) started in 2010, defending a fast track towards Catalonia’s independence from Spain. In the 2010 Catalan elections, SI obtained 3.29% of the votes and 4 MPs in the 135-seat Catalan Parliament. SI grew around the magnetic personality of Joan Laporta, former President of FC Barcelona, but he quit the party a few months after the elections over internal disputes. SI was then led by Alfons López Tena and Uriel Bertran. López Tena is now SI’s current candidate for Catalan President. With a demagogical speech, they have mainly focused on asking for an immediate and unilateral independence declaration. In a populist manner, they have been linking any issue to Catalan independence and what they considered to be Spain’s abuse of Catalonia, with expressions such as “Spain steals from us”. They have also accused moderate Catalan nationalists, including moderate independence supporters, of being constantly looking for pacts with the Spanish Government. In addition, they have also linked those parties with hypothetical corruption scandals, which have not been proved in court. Furthermore, SI has also accused those parties of being controlled by some of Catalonia’s largest companies. Now, SI has the challenge of remaining in the Catalan Parliament, especially when the moderate Catalan nationalist parties are supporting Catalonia’s self-determination process. According to the polls, SI might not get enough votes to stay in the Parliament or, in the best case scenario, retain only 3 MPs.
SI was supported by those who demanded an immediate and unilateral independence declaration
Built around the magnetic personality of Joan Laporta, a former President of FC Barcelona, SI profited from the crisis of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the electoral niche it left empty. Between 2006 and 2010, ERC was seen by some independence supporters as being too keen to find agreements with the Spanish Government after being in a three-party coalition running the Catalan Government for 7 years (between 2003 and 2010). These voters believed that ERC was very keen to settle on middle-ground agreements instead of pushing for independence. Consequently, ERC’s support significantly dropped in the few years before the 2010 Catalan elections, which resulted in a deep internal crisis and scissions. Those voters who supported an immediate and unilateral independence declaration were then lacking a party and two main options presented themselves.
One of ERC’s main leaders, Joan Carretero, quit the party in 2009 and formed Reagrupament per la Indepedència (RI), which proposed a right-wing programme for an independent Catalan state. Besides this, Joan Laporta, who was about to end his term as President of FC Barcelona, announced his intention to run for Catalan President, defending a populist fast track towards independence. Before the elections, RI and Laporta were discussing running together, but mainly because of personality clashes, they decided to run separately. In parallel with this, Alfons López Tena – who came from the moderate Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) – and one of ERC MPs, Uriel Bertran, formed SI. Immediately after, Laporta joined them. With Laporta as its main candidate, SI managed to obtain 4 MPs in the 2010 elections and left RI without a place in the Catalan Parliament.
Since SI did not reach the 5 MP minimum requirement to have its own parliamentary group, it shared a mixed group with the populist anti-Catalan nationalist and left-wing party Ciutadans (C’s), which had 3 MPs. C’s and SI created two sub-groups, as their ideas were absolutely opposed regarding the relationship between Catalonia and Spain.
Laporta quit and López Tena was the new candidate
After just four months being an MP, Joan Laporta quit SI over internal disputes, but he held his seat in the Catalan Parliament. SI continued the parliamentary term with 3 MPs. Therefore, Laporta, SI and C’s have all been sharing a mixed group since early 2011, with quite a lot of tension. López Tena was acting as SI’s main spokesperson, although Uriel Bertran and Toni Strubell were also very vocal. SI organised a primary process to elect its candidate for President of the Catalan Government a few weeks before the 2012 elections. Alfons López Tena, who is a notary and a former CiU member, was elected.
SI’s current campaign focuses on Catalan independence and attacking CiU and ERC
During this two-year parliamentary term, SI has linked almost any issue to Catalan independence and what they consider to be Spain’s abuse of Catalonia and its citizens. In the current campaign, SI claims to be the only party that is “the guarantee” for Catalonia’s independence. It has announced that it will not give its support to any “autonomist” government. In addition, it proposed that its first legislative initiative will be to call for an independence referendum, followed by a unilateral declaration of independence with immediate effect. In fact, SI is the only party with representation in the Catalan Parliament that defends a unilateral declaration of independence; the rest of the independence supporters are in favour of a negotiated independence after being backed by the majority of the ballots in a legal referendum. SI uses these other parties’ moderate views to accuse them of being too soft and too keen to ultimately put their independence project aside to make a deal with the Spanish Government. Following the strategy to erode support for CiU and ERC and attract their most radical voters – regarding Catalonia’s independence –, SI is asking CiU, ERC and ICV-EUiA (the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition) to publicly state that they will vote to organise an independence referendum as the Catalan Parliament’s first law next term. Furthermore, SI directly accuses CiU and ERC of “improvising” because their original project was not independence.
Answering attacks from Spanish nationalists
In addition, SI is answering every attack from Spanish nationalists against the Catalan independence process. For instance, SI has responded to the former President of the Spanish region of Extremadura, the Socialist Guillermo Fernández Vara, who said that “if Catalonia becomes independent, they should return what they took away from us 30 or 40 years ago […], the 150,000 people who were stolen from us, plus their children and grand-children”, referring to the migrant workers who left Extremadura to find new jobs in Catalonia. SI has obtained explicit support from Isabel Buján, an old lady born in Extremadura and living in Catalonia who became popular as she recorded a video with her grand-son criticising what Fernández Vara said and claiming that she is “an adopted Catalan”.
In addition, SI has also responded to the propaganda from the People’s Party (PP) that states that in an independent Catalonia surnames with a Spanish origin would be translated into Catalan. López Tena stated that he has a Spanish surname (López) and said “we do not discriminate, neither for origin or nationality”. López Tena also emphasised that many SI candidates have non-Catalan surnames, such as himself and the numbers 1 and 2 for Tarragona Province. Furthermore, López Tena has challenged the PP to show the figures which show that an independent Catalonia would have a worse economy.
Criminalising moderate Catalan nationalists
Finally, another part of SI’s strategy is to criminalise the moderate Catalan nationalist parties, in order to attract some of their voters. SI has accused CiU, the PSC and ERC of making deals with banks and having part of their loans forgiven. SI has accused the banks of controlling such parties and “running Catalonia”, particularly ‘La Caixa’, which is based in Barcelona and owns Spain’s largest bank, ‘CaixaBank’. Following this demagogical strategy, SI has promised that they will not ask banks for any loans. In addition, they have accused CiU of making deals with large companies, such as Grupo Godó – which owns La Vanguardia newspaper – and Abertis, the Catalan multinational company managing transport and telecommunications infrastructures. In fact, SI is profiting from a populist campaign they mounted in the spring, when Uriel Bertran refused to pay one of the highway tolls surrounding Barcelona managed by Abertis, and he was copied by hundreds of people in the following days. SI claimed that those highways had already been paid for and, according to them, the tolls constitute part of the Spanish strategy to rob Catalans, with the acceptance of moderate Catalan nationalists, such as CiU.