Barcelona— The anti-capitalist, pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) faced an excruciating dilemma after the September 27 regional elections in Catalonia: join a government that would begin the next stage of the long march toward the creation of a Catalan independent republic, or stand true to its commitment to fight austerity, privatization, and tax evasion by the Catalan elite.
The victorious pro-independence coalition Junts pel Sí (“Together for Yes”), which won 62 of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament, needs CUP’s 10 seats to form a government and begin building the architecture for a new state of some 7 million inhabitants lodged between Spain and France. Catalan president Artur Mas, leader of the center-right Convergència i Unió party, and Oriol Junqueras of the Catalan Republican Left, which made up the pro-independence ticket, consider their resounding victory in seats on Sunday enough to justify the move toward secession despite falling short in popular votes of the majority considered a minimum condition for a declaration of independence—which the central government in Madrid has repeatedly declared would be unconstitutional. A T-shirt-clad group of revolutionaries, many of them former supporters of the armed separatist movement Terra Lliure (“Free Land”), CUP has proved more cautious than the conservative, MBA-trained Mas. “We lost the plebiscite, so we can’t declare independence,” said CUP leader Antonio Baños.
CUP has also refused to back the return of Artur Mas—whose government has been responsible for draconian cuts in public services during Spain’s deep recession—to the Catalan presidency. To win CUP’s votes, the leader of a new government must be “free from any involvement in austerity policies or corruption charges and must also have international projection,” said Baños. Junqueras meets those requirements, as does the left-leaning leader of the Junts pel Sí campaign, Raül Romeva. But Convergència stood firm behind Mas. As the impasse hardened, CUP suggested a “choral presidency,” with representatives from all the contrasting ideological currents in the Catalan separatist movement. Some in Barcelona retorted that this proposal could only have been made in the same satirical vein as the CUP’s amusing campaign TV spot, set in the Monegros Desert between Catalonia and Aragón, and based on the US narco TV series Breaking Bad.
Left-right splits also stymied any attempts by the non-secessionist camp to fill the post-electoral void. Here the shiny young faces of Ciutadans (“Citizens”) took the initiative. A Catalonia-based neoliberal alternative to the current ruling party in Madrid, the right-wing Partido Popular, Ciutadans has out-maneuvered the PP in Catalonia and may soon do so in Spain. Its young leader, Albert Rivera, who is Catalan but more inspired by Davos, gathering site of the global capitalist elite, than the sacred Catalan mountain of Montserrat, called for a pro-Spanish government in Barcelona that would take power from the secessionists. Ciutadans won 18 percent of the vote in Catalonia, ahead of all the other anti-separatist groups.