The Catalan President: “The referendum will happen”
Sant Vicenç dels Horts (ACN).- No turning back on the referendum. The Catalan President, Artur Mas, said on Friday that he still plans to call a referendum on independence in 2014. “The referendum will happen – yes or yes. There has been not one step back, nor any slow down in the plans”, he argued, following political turmoil in Catalonia after his comments about the possible use of plebiscite elections in 2016 if the referendum is forbidden by Spain.
Trying to clarify his stance, Mas said he plans to put the question to the Catalans next year, but that he needs a “back-up plan” in case Madrid “boycotts” the referendum. However, critics – including leading civil society activists Carme Forcadell and Muriel Casals – argue that 2016 might be too late to hold a “plebiscite-style” election and that a ‘no’ from Madrid should be followed by immediate early elections or a unilateral declaration of independence.
The Catalan president also admitted in his comments to the press this Friday that he has discussed the issue with Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy. However, negotiations have so far been “unproductive”. “Whoever thinks we will be turning back if we face too many difficulties is wrong. The referendum will take place regardless, I am absolutely determined”, argued Artur Mas.
According to the Catalan president, the date and question of the referendum will be agreed on before the end of the year, so it can be carried out in 2014. His government agreed with the main party of the opposition, Esquerra Republicana, that the referendum should take place next year. “We are not changing plans”, Mas stated.
The President said Catalans should try to find a “legal framework” to hold the referendum, and that he plans to agree this scenario with the Spanish government. If this proves impossible, Mas will then try to turn the 2016 elections into a “plebiscite-style” poll on independence, thus asking Catalans to wait around two years to vote, a possibility that pro-independence campaigners and senior figures of the opposition party ERC have rejected.
The main opposition party, Esquerra Republicana (ERC), has already said it wants the people to vote in 2014 “in one form or another” – that is to say, through a referendum or an early election. However, its leader, Oriol Junqueras, avoided discussing the issue in an event today with Artur Mas. The president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC, in Catalan), Carme Forcadell, said that Catalans “cannot wait, under any circumstances, until 2016”. She argued that the referendum should be held in 2014 and, if this is not possible, the government should consider a unilateral declaration of independence.