After postponing the decision for two months, Catalan premier Artur Mas on Wednesday announced a date for early elections in the region.
September 27 is the next big date on the Catalan leader’s calendar for regional independence, a project that reached a climax on November 9 last year with an informal referendum on self-rule that was closely followed by the Madrid central government.
Mas, of the nationalist coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU), had been dragging his feet on a date for elections that are being framed as a way for Catalans to either support or reject the entire independence drive.
The elections are being framed as a way for Catalans to either support or reject the entire independence drive
The regional leader had been trying to reach a deal with other separatist forces to run together in a joint list so as to ensure victory, but this has not been possible.
However, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), CiU’s main pro-independence partner in the regional assembly, has now agreed to support his government’s 2015 budget despite early criticism. ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, an ardent supporter of independence, had given Mas a deadline that ended today for announcing a date for early elections.
Although Junqueras was pushing for elections this spring, he agreed to wait longer on condition that the ERC would run separately. The party claims that a single nationalist ticket would not secure full control of the Catalan parliament, but that CiU and ERC running separately would if they joined forces afterwards. This method has ensured them an absolute majority in the regional assembly in nine out of 10 elections.
“Now we really have a date, and now we have to win,” said Junqueras following the meeting. “November 9 was a very tough success, and now we have to vote and win.”
Despite going their separate ways on the campaign trail, both political organizations will have “a shared roadmap” guiding their steps towards their ultimate goal of independence for Catalonia, said Mas.
But Catalonia’s political map could be altered by the growing strength of Podemos, the new leftist anti-austerity party that seeks to break through the nationalist rhetoric of “better without Madrid.” Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias recently said that he would prefer for Catalonia to remain a part of Spain, and that the debate should instead focus on social issues, political corruption and the austerity cuts that Catalan society has suffered at the hands of its current government.