“Plebiscite” election in 2016 if Spain refuses to allow a referendum in Catalonia
Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan President, Artur Mas, argued on Thursday that “plebiscite-style” elections should be held in 2016 – when the current term finishes – if the Spanish government does not allow the independence referendum to take place next year. In an interview with Catalan radio, Mas said he aims to finish the term and would prefer not to have to call early elections. Mas is waiting for an answer from the Spanish government about the possibility of organising a referendum next year.
The Catalan Government has an agreement with the main opposition party to call a referendum in 2014, but a refusal from Madrid to collaborate might complicate this issue. The possibility of voting on the issue of independence through a regular election –thus allowing citizens to choose between parties in favour of ‘yes’ or ‘no’- has been in the table for a while. This is, however, the first time that Mas has said he would prefer to wait until 2016 for this kind of “plebiscite” election to take place. The main opposition party, Esquerra Republicana (ERC), has already said it wants the people to vote in 2014 “in one form or the other” –that is to say, through a referendum or an early election.
In his interview, Artur Mas said the the aim is to carry out a referendum “within the legal framework, and, if possible, with an agreement with Spain” in 2014. However, he added that if the Spanish government refuses completely to collaborate he can always call “plebiscite-style” elections as a “last resource”. He stated, though, this election would have to be held in 2016.
Mas said he would prefer to wait until 2016 because then Catalonia would have dramatically improved its economical situation. “Improving the economy, to create jobs, to guarantee social services and regain public confidence is as important as celebrating a referendum”, said the Catalan president. Mas already had to call early elections in 2012, only two years after entering office, because of the political environment, and he now thinks this time it would be better to be able to finish the term.
Mas admitted a “plebiscite” election would mean a “direct and open confrontation” with the Spanish government and thus he prefers trying to reach an agreement for a 2014 referendum. “But if they do not offer us any alternative, if they put us between a rock and a hard place, we’ll have to ask the people in the 2016 elections”, he said.
The Catalan president avoided discussing the possibility of designing a single electoral list with all parties supporting independence, saying that whether or not parties go to the polls together, the results will show Catalans’ opinion on the issue of independence.