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New Catalan premier admits he lacks backing to declare independence

Carles Puigdemont says Catalonia will not make unilateral break from Spain

The new Catalan regional premier, Carles Puigdemont, left puzzled looks on several faces after stating that “we are standing between post-autonomy and pre-independence” when he was voted in last Sunday.

Four days later, the separatist leader sought to clear up the meaning of his words on regional television station TV-3, where he gave his first interview since taking up the post.

Puigdemont said pro-independence forces would achieve a majority once Catalans get their own constitution

“Do we have enough strength to proclaim independence with the current parliamentary makeup? Not yet,” said the man who was mayor of Girona until last week, when his name suddenly came up as a replacement for acting premier Artur Mas at the helm of the Catalan government. His last-minute nomination narrowly averted new elections in the region following more than three months of feuding between separatist forces over who should be the next premier.

After addressing the issue that has been uppermost on many people’s minds in recent days, Puigdemont told the interviewer: “We will not make a unilateral declaration of independence. It is not on the program.”

But he also warned that this does not mean that the Catalan executive is changing its plans to prepare Catalonia to proclaim secession 18 months from now, based on the separatist motion passed by the regional house in November.

“We have the strength and democratic legitimacy to begin this road and I won’t accept this point being contested,” he said.

This legitimacy has been contested by unionist parties in Catalonia, which note that the pro-independence Junts pel Sí coalition and Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) did not attain a majority of votes at the September 27 election, even if the voting system granted them parliamentary superiority.

Aware of this fact, the new premier said that pro-independence forces would achieve a majority once Catalans get their own constitution – and drafting one is included in the 18-month road map.

“The goal is to get a majority of the people who would have voted no at a referendum [on self-rule] to vote yes to a constitution that they can relate to much more than the Spanish one,” he said.

Puigdemont does not foresee any options for reform within Spain that would preempt the need for independence, but says he is still open to “dialogue” with Madrid over any measure involving Catalonia.

English version by Susana Urra.