Catalan premier rejects ERC offer to join government to shore up referendum

Artur Mas says support can be discussed at later date and suggests early elections if vote fails

ERC leader Oriol Junqueras in the Catalan parliament.
ERC leader Oriol Junqueras in the Catalan parliament.ALBERT GARCIA

A day after Catalan premier Artur Mas suggested he might call early elections if the November 9 referendum on self-rule does not take place as planned, the head of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) asked to formally join the regional government to shore up the independence drive.

“If the government calls us we will join the government,” said ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, who earlier this month called for civil disobedience if Spain’s Constitutional Court rules the referendum illegal. “The popular consultation is the best, nearly the only tool, and it must be preserved.”

ERC, which already works with Mas’s CiU nationalist bloc as a regional parliamentary partner, wants to hold the vote regardless of what the Spanish courts may decide. The central government of the conservative Popular Party (PP) has promised to appeal the referendum on the grounds that a region cannot unilaterally hold a partial vote for its own residents.

The Catalan premier seemed reluctant to accept the ERC’s offer, at least for the moment.

“When the time comes, and that time is not now, we will talk and see in what conditions we might be able to strengthen this government,” said Mas on Tuesday.

He also reminded Junqueras that the ERC is not the only party able to provide CiU with the support it needs. “There are other possible majorities in this parliament,” he said.

In recent weeks, the Catalan government’s show of unity regarding the November 9 poll has been cracking. Some CiU officials have suggested that the vote could be postponed or canceled if the courts deem it unlawful.

Recently, Mas has rejected suggestions that he would call early elections in Catalonia if the referendum falls through. Yet he made an apparent about-turn on Monday, stating that “I would like to end this term when it is supposed to end, in late 2016 […] But for that to happen, we need to vote on November 9 with full democratic guarantees.”

By that, he appeared to be referring to endorsement by the Constitutional Court.

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