Catalan premier Artur Mas signed a decree on Monday calling for early regional elections, which will be held on September 27. The move is part of his continued sovereignty push for the northeastern Spanish region.
The signing came at 9pm on Monday evening, accompanied by a call by the politician for the vote to serve as a plebiscite. However, the word “plebiscite” was not included in the decree, so as to avoid a legal challenge from the central government in Madrid.
Mas’s quest for independence for Catalonia has put him in a situation of direct confrontation with the prime minister
Mas’s quest for independence for Catalonia has put him in a situation of direct confrontation with Popular Party Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who just last week reiterated that the Spanish government will never allow Catalonia to break away from the rest of the country.
Mas, a leader in the Convergència (CD) party, is running on a secessionist bloc ticket, Junts pel Sí (literally, Together for yes), along with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and other pro-independence groups and associations.
The aim is for the bloc to win an absolute majority of seats in the regional parliament, which they would then consider gives them a legitimate mandate to move toward independence. However, Mas did not specify the percentage of votes needed nor the concrete steps that would be taken after the September 27 vote.
Mas waited until the 11th hour to call the elections, in order to reduce the time between the signing and the polls themselves to the absolute minimum of 54 days. As such, he was hoping to avoid the possibility that Prime Minister Rajoy would opt at the last minute to schedule upcoming general elections for the same day as the Catalan regional polls, as some business leaders from Catalonia – who are anti-independence – had called on him to do.
This is the second time Mas has called early elections, as he has been unable to fulfill his 2012 election platform pledge “to push for necessary actions to hold a vote so that the people of Catalonia can decide their future.”
The premier has also failed to meet his pledges to seek a legal framework with the central government for secession and convince Spaniards across the country about the need for a referendum.
Spain’s Constitutional Court has blocked the Catalan government’s intentions to hold a legally binding referendum.
In November, the regional government sponsored an informal referendum, which saw a lukewarm voter turn-out. About 1.8 million people voted in favor of independence.
Spain’s Constitutional Court has blocked the Catalan government’s intentions to hold a legally binding referendum
In 2012, Catalans went to polls after Mas failed to win a new regional financing plan, similar to the one that exists between the central government and the Basque Country.
With waning support in parliament, Mas broke away from a previous coalition with Unió Democràtica early this year. Unió leaders disapproved of his plan to map out a unilateral independence strategy.
Nevertheless, Convergència is convinced that it will drum up international support.
“We have demonstrated that we have used all the legal resources we have at hand, and we will show the international community that we find ourselves in a position to hold this referendum because the Spanish courts have denied us this option,” said Josep Rull, Convergència’s general coordinator.