On June 20 in Molins de Rei, president Mas made a call to achieve the “maximum unity possible within the Catalan pro-independence camp”. His call included two “requests”: to bring back the plebiscite nature of the vote on September 27 and to devise a single, joint candidacy of all the forces that rallied for a Yes-Yes vote on the unofficial referendum of November 9 last year. This candidacy should probably include --and I say “probably” because his proposal was open-ended-- the leaders or some well-known faces of the separatist parties, as well as some prominent figures from civil society.
You cannot argue with the aim of Mas’ proposal: to turn the elections of September 27 into the referendum that we have not been allowed to hold. Let us not forget that Catalonia has not yet been allowed to decide: despite its success, the 9N vote was a politically inconsequential mock plebiscite. And nothing suggests that this is likely to change. The PP, Ciudadanos and the PSOE openly oppose the idea of a referendum in Catalonia (the latter only made its decision official in recent days). Podemos opposes it, too, albeit in an implicit manner, as it ties the referendum to a constitutional reform that they will never manage to achieve because they will not have the majority in parliament that is required by the Spanish constitution (two thirds).
Therefore, a plebiscitary election is our last resort in order to accomplish the radically democratic feat that we have been systematically denied.
Still, there are three reasons that make the method of Mas’ proposal impractical, if we understand it as a joint list partly made up of candidates from two or three political parties, with a prior agreement to form a government.
First of all, there is some personal and partisan distrust that appears to be insurmountable.
Secondly, the political parties involved (especially those on the left) would struggle to persuade some of their voters to “hold the line”: a list featuring president Mas and other Convergència leaders would prompt an important fraction of CUP and ERC voters to flee to Podemos and Procés Constituent, while a segment of Convergència’s electorate would likely opt for Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (its official wing). This newspaper published an opinion poll last Sunday which confirms this reality: a CDC-ERC coalition would yield the worst electoral results possible for the Yes camp.
Thirdly, we no longer seem to have enough time to devise an electoral platform for the elections of September 27 that might please all the social and political flavours within the pro-independence parties.
Faced with this cul de sac, the only possible way out, if we want to run as a single candidacy, requires bringing back the concept and the raison d’être of the 27S vote in all its purity: to turn the elections into a plebiscite.
If 27S must truly become a referendum, the sole purpose of the single list must be to allow Catalans to express their views on the subject of Catalan independence. If including active politicians in the candidacy is a hurdle, then the list should only be made up of prominent names from civil society.
These two elements (civil list and 27S as a referendum) complement each other relatively well. The joint civil list would feature outstanding individuals from a wide range of social, ideological and professional backgrounds, and its manifesto would be very simple: to say yes to independence. This candidacy would have the full backing of the separatist parties and Catalonia’s main civil groups.
Should it win the election (with over half the ballots cast), the members of the single list would vote for an immediate declaration of independence and would work alongside the incumbent government to make that happen, following the recommendations laid out in the reports written by the CATN (1).
We should note that the current discussion about the vote on 27S presupposes that the election will both reveal the public’s opinion on Catalan independence as well as determine the makeup of the new government. In a perfect world, that might need to be so: the vote should also determine who will manage the result of 27S. Still, given the political complexity of Catalonia today --mostly the result of the constraints set by Spain--, finding out whether Catalans support independence should suffice. In other words, the joint list would not seek to obtain a mandate to form a government, but would be simply an instrument to ascertain the people’s will.
Therefore, president Mas’ incumbent cabinet would become the provisional government until another election were called. Naturally, politicians from other parties and independent figures may join the government, subject to considerations that do not immediately concern the holding of a vote on September 27. At any rate, the elected parliament would be short-lived: within a brief time span (to be determined during the talks leading to 27S), new elections would be called, this time of an “ordinary” nature (non-plebiscitary), so as to form a new government and devise the constitutional framework of an independent country.
(1) N.T. in Catalan CATN stands for Advisory Council for the National Transition, a committee of experts who advise the Catalan government on matters to do with the ongoing political process in Catalonia.