Leftists threaten to break CiU pact over referendum

Catalan premier's ally wants simple "yes or no" question on independence "Spain against Catalonia" forum riles regional PP

The leader of ERC, Oriol Junqueras (r), spokesperson Anna Simó (l), and party general secretary Marta Rovira (c).
The leader of ERC, Oriol Junqueras (r), spokesperson Anna Simó (l), and party general secretary Marta Rovira (c).Alberto Estévez (EFE)

The Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) has made its clearest threat to date to regional premier Artur Mas of the governing CiU bloc: if the question that is posed to Catalans on any independence referendum does not refer explicitly to independence, ERC will withdraw from the pact between the groups. "ERC will not participate in a deal that results in a bad question," ERC spokeswoman Anna Simó said Monday.

ERC's unease has been growing since last week, when Mas and ICV Catalan Greens leader Joan Herrera discussed an eventual question that would also satisfy those in favor of federalism. ERC wants no ambiguity: "A clear, honest question, with a yes or no answer that everybody understands. The people took to the streets for independence and they should be asked about that," said Simó.

Should ERC distance itself from CiU, Mas's party would lose the ally that allows it to govern; ERC has reminded CiU that the approval of the region's 2014 budget is in its hands. "It was very clear in our mind that what was agreed for this legislature was parliamentary stability to push ahead with the referendum. Any act that does not follow the line of allowing the people to vote on their future would be a failure to meet the promises we made," Simó warned.

ERC has also called on citizens to use their voice to pressure CiU into calling a referendum. Simó fell short of using the word "mobilization," but sent a message to Catalans to "make them aware of their power."

If the outpouring of pro-independence sentiment displayed during last year's Catalonia National Day celebrations - when hundreds of thousands marched in Barcelona in favor of independence - led Mas to call early elections in the first clear move toward a referendum on splitting from Spain, ERC believes a similar expression could help in achieving the final objective.

The ERC spokeswoman also called on Mas to convene all the pro-sovereignty parties to fine-tune the question to be put to the region. ERC has proposed its own wording and wants to hear the ideas of the other groups. On Saturday, ERC will lead a rally to call for the referendum to be fast-tracked, and with one clear question: yes, or no, to Catalonia seceding from Spain.

Separately, a symposium entitled Spain against Catalonia is due to start on Thursday at the Catalonia Center for Contemporary History as part of the tercentenary events to mark the fall of Barcelona at the end of the Spanish War of Succession in 1714. The gathering of academics and historians is based on "historic reality, not subjective opinions," said the center's director Jaume Sobrequés. However, the Catalan Popular Party has called on Mas to prevent the symposium, which it believes "displays a sickly victimism that will only foster hatred toward Spain" and end Mas's "chances of sitting down with the central government."

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