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POLITICS

Mas keeps on wooing leftist ERC for a “stable Catalan coalition”

Regional premier hints at softer austerity approach to ensure support for referendum

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Catalan premier Artur Mas in the Generalitat’s press room on Friday.

The acting premier of Catalonia, CiU leader Artur Mas, insisted that what the region needs is “a coalition government with ERC,” the leftist nationalist republicans who were the second most-voted political force in last Sunday’s regional elections. “CiU needs permanent support,” he said at a press conference Friday.

Mas warned ERC, which on Sunday said it would not enter into a coalition with Mas’ conservative CiU, that “a government with the maximum stability” is required in order to hold the referendum on Catalan self-rule that was the backbone of his campaign program. While ERC supports sovereignty for Catalonia, it is at odds with CiU over its drastic spending cuts in public services like health and education, which caused significant social unrest and street protests.

In an effort to ingratiate itself with the leftwing nationalists who could help Mas ensure that the referendum take place, the premier who enacted the toughest austerity measures of all the Spanish regions insisted that the incoming government must “consolidate” the welfare state.

Although ERC is demanding that the referendum be held in September 2013, Mas has avoided naming a specific date, although he pointed out that it will be conducted at some time over the next four years. Even though CiU lost 12 of the 62 seats it had in the regional assembly — a far cry from the absolute majority that Mas had campaigned for — the premier said that he did not regret calling early elections.