By Paul T Kavanagh
The pro-sovereignty parties which form a majority in the Catalan parliament have jointly agreed the date and question of a referendum on Catalan independence. The referendum is scheduled for 9 November 2014, and will comprise a two part question.
The first question will ask “Do you want Catalonia to become a state?” (In the original Catalan: Vol que Catalunya esdevingui un estat?) with two possible responses, yes or no.
Those who have voted yes to the first question will be asked a second: “In the affirmative case, do you want this state to be independent?” (in the original Catalan, En cas afirmatiu, voleu que aquest estat sigui independent?)
The date and question for the referendum were agreed by the leaders of the CiU, ERC, ICV-EUiA, and CUP parties. The parties held a joint press conference in the Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of the Catalan parliament, to announce the historic vote.
Artur Mas, president of the Catalan government and leader of the CiU said: “Everyone who wants a change of political status will be able to vote for it, and everyone who wants an independent state will be able to vote for that.”
Mas thanked the “understanding, generosity, cooperation and sense of country” of all the parties that have signed the agreement. He added, “We know that what we have in our hands has a great historical significance and a very important future. We had to live up to the occasion.”
Oriol Junqueras, leader of the ERC, the minority party in the coalition governing Catalonia, said that the referendum “had to be as inclusive as possible, had to give the opportunity to the majority of Catalan citizens and overcome and improve the current situation.” He added:
“We have agreed this formula, with one question in two parts, which permits the mobilisation of the majority of Catalan civil society and permits the pro-independence majority to achieve a clear victory.”
However the anti-independence parties and the Spanish government have reacted negatively to the news. Alicia Sánchez Camacho, leader of the Partido Popular in Catalonia said:
“Artur Mas is deceiving the Catalans because he knows that the consultation will not be held because it is illegal and the Constitution does not permit it. Today Mas has lied to the Catalans by promising a Catalan consultation… Today is a day in which the Catalan Government has chosen confrontation and the division of the Catalans… The Government of Spain will guarantee the unity and concord of all Spain.”
She added: “The government of Spain does not negotiate with those who propose illegal acts such as Artur Mas and the rest of the politicians have done today.”
Meanwhile Jorge Fernández Díaz, the PP representative from Barcelona who holds the post of Spanish minister of the interior, said that today’s events in Catalonia were not welcome, and blamed “irresponsible representatives” – alluding to the CiU and the ERC. Speaking to journalists in the Congress in Madrid, he guaranteed that the Spanish Government will not permit the referendum to take place, saying: “We’ve not all lost our common sense,” and adding that the referendum was “fundamentally inconstitutional”.
On Thursday evening, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy issued a statement condemning the decision of the Catalan Parliament to press ahead with a referendum.
He said: “The consultation is unconstitutional and will not be held. It strikes against the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, for which reason my Government will not negotiate nor authorise something which is the property of all Spaniards. It is for them to decide what is Spain and how it will be organised, no Government can cede what belongs to all Spaniards.”
He insisted that Catalonia must comply with the law, and added: “This consultation will not be held. That is beyond discussion and all negotiation.”
Despite the negative response from Madrid, the news that Catalonia’s pro-sovereignty parties have agreed a question and date for the referendum was welcomed by groups and organisations campaigning for independence.
Carme Forcadell, leader of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), which was one of the organisers of the recent Via Catalana during which 1.6 million Catalans formed a human chain to demand the right to self determination, said that the ANC was fully behind today’s announcement.
Ms Forcadell added:
“9 November will also be a symbol of our freedom. We will work even harder in order that there is a massive yes in November … now we will work for a Yes and a Yes.”
Muriel Casals, leader the forum Òmnium which works to develop and encourage the use of the Catalan language, said:
“Today is a day of hope, 9 November will be a statement of victory for us. We are about to become a normal country.”