Mas seals deal with leftist ERC to remain as Catalan premier

Leader's Unió partner expected to back Republican Left parliamentary pact “without enthusiasm”

Artur Mas’s center-right nationalist CiU bloc on Friday reached an agreement with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) that will allow him to stay on as premier of Catalonia.

The CiU was the most voted party in regional elections held last month but failed to secure the absolute majority it was seeking, requiring it to request the ERC’s support to form a stable government. Both CiU and ERC ran their campaigns on an independence agenda, which forms a key aspect of their pact.

To reach the accord, the conservative CiU had to make painful concessions to its leftwing partner particularly in the area of taxes. ERC demanded hikes in levies that will mainly affect higher income earners, the natural constituency of the bloc. Unió Democràtica, the junior partner in the CiU alliance was particularly reluctant to cede ground in these areas.

The senior partner in the coalition is Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya.

ERC insisted on reintroducing an inheritance tax and on an increase in the wealth tax in turn for its support

ERC insisted on reintroducing an inheritance tax and on an increase in the wealth tax in turn for its support. The new government needs to find budget savings of four billion euros in next year’s budget in order to meet the deficit target set for it by the central government.

ERC expects the government to take in one billion euros from these tax measures, which will help reduce the weight of spending cuts that have to be found to meet the deficit goal. The rescindment of the inheritance tax was one of the key policies of the current Mas administration.

In his weekly letter posted on the party’s website, Unió Democràtica leader Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida said the alliance with ERC would not be easy because of the economic crisis and because the two groups have “different cultures of governing.”

Duran i Lleida met on Friday with the top management of his party in order to analyze the agreement, which is expected to be voted on by the national committees of the three parties involved. Sources said that while Unió would back the pact it would do so “without enthusiasm” because there is no alternative.

The key demand of ERC was road map for independence for Catalonia.

Apart from the holding of a referendum on independence before 2015 already agreed with the CiU, ERC also wants a plan that lays down the path to creating an independent state that moves toward ring-fencing the secession vote against any possible adverse ruling on it by the Constitutional Court. It also wants Catalonia to have its own tax authority and central bank.

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