Artur Mas fails in second attempt to be re-elected Catalan premier

Catalonia will be forced to hold fresh elections if no agreement reached in next two months

Acting Catalan premier Artur Mas arrives at the regional parliament.
Acting Catalan premier Artur Mas arrives at the regional parliament.A. Garcia

Artur Mas’s second attempt to convince the anti-capitalist CUP party to support his bid to be re-elected as Catalan premier has ended in failure.

His candidacy was once again rejected by 73 votes to 62 in the second round of voting on Thursday. Now, if the pro-independence CUP and the Junts pel Sí coalition – whose main members are Mas’s own Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) party and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) – fail to reach an agreement before January 10, fresh regional elections will automatically be called.

Mas has offered to subject his leadership to a vote of confidence within 10 months to allow the CUP to end his government if he fails to live up to his promises

In the second investiture debate on Tuesday morning, the CDC chief offered to subject his leadership to a vote of confidence within 10 months to allow the CUP to end his government if he fails to live up to his promises as he attempts to drive the region towards independence from Spain.

CUP spokesman Antonio Baños welcomed the proposal as a step forward but not enough to prevent the party’s 10 deputies – who together hold the keys to power after Junts pel Sí failed to win an absolute majority in the September 27 regional election – from once again voting against him.

King Felipe: “The Constitution will prevail”

Miquel Alberola, Madrid

One day after the Constitutional Court suspended the motion passed by the Catalan parliament on Monday to begin the process of breaking away from Spain, King Felipe VI has said the Spanish people “are not willing to have their unity, which is the basis of their peaceful and free coexistence, called into question.”

The monarch noted that Spain’s constitutional principles “will be kept fully in force,” adding that “the Constitution will prevail, nobody doubt it.”

Speaking at a ceremony to hand out accreditations to ambassadors for Brand Spain in Madrid, Felipe said he wanted to convey a message of “calm and confidence.” “The constitutional Spain of our times is an asset that belongs to us all; it belongs to the Spanish people, in whom national sovereignty resides and from where all the state’s powers emanate.

“The king, as head of state, will always be by the side of all Spaniards.”

Mas’s offer to the CUP had also included a proposal to create a government made up of three deputy premiers: ERC leader Oriol Junqueras would oversee economic and employment affairs; Raül Romeva, an independent who headed Junts pel Sí’s list of candidates and is CUP’s preferred choice for premier, would be responsible for four departments relating to institutional and foreign affairs; and acting premier Neus Munté would look after social issues.

Baños’s speech was more conciliatory in tone than before. Unlike on previous occasions, he did not outright reject the possibility of Mas becoming premier, noting that “the debate does not end this morning.” He added that his party did not want early elections and left the doors open to continue negotiating.

Baños was also keen to underline that this second vote against Mas, which follows that he received in the first investiture debate on Tuesday, should not be read as a reflection of the split in the ranks of pro-independence forces in Catalonia. “We will not fall into the trap of becoming divided, because we have a shared goal,” which, he added, was “very close.”

He called on the pro-secessionist forces to avoid making “gestures and accusations” among themselves because, according to him, they “very much like that in Madrid but it weakens us.”

The opposition leader in the Catalan parliament Inés Arrimadas, of Ciudadanos, began her address on Thursday by expressing her surprise that Mas had failed to make any reference to the Constitutional Court’s suspension of the motion to kick-start the independence process, which the Catalan parliament passed on Monday.

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“Maybe the same thing happened with corruption,” she said in reference to the graft cases in which the CDC is currently embroiled. “The small details were also forgotten there: your fantastic plan has been suspended. You are tremendously irresponsible and thoughtless. You are putting [Catalan] self-government, public workers and citizens in danger.”

Catalan Socialist leader Miquel Iceta was no less condemnatory in his address, saying Junts pel Sí and the CUPs insistence on pushing ahead with the independence drive despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling meant “dragging Catalan institutions outside of the law.” “Let’s see whether building a state will mean destroying a nation.”

English version by Nick Funnell.

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