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CATALAN QUESTION

Catalan ruling party sees elections as only alternative to self-rule vote

CiU congressional spokesman Duran i Lleida says referendum will only be held if deemed “legal”

A day after Catalan nationalist parties agreed on the questions to be asked in a hypothetical referendum on self-rule they seek to hold in November 2014, the difficulties of making this a reality began to emerge with force.

The ruling center-right nationalist Convergència i Unió (CiU) in Catalonia admitted on Friday that should the referendum fail to prosper, the only alternative would be new elections in the northeastern region.

While Madrid is seen as the main obstacle towards the plebiscite – Popular Party (PP) officials have said that the Spanish Constitution prevents regions from unilaterally holding independence votes - the fact is that even the Catalan government evidences a lack of internal consensus.

While Unió Democrática, one half of the ruling CiU partnership, claims that it is too early to take a stand on the referendum’s results, the other half, Convergència, has already started its “vote yes” campaign.

CiU and other nationalist parties on Thursday announced that the first question in the hypothetical referendum will be: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” If the respondent answers yes, there will be a second question: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?”

CiU secretary general and its spokesman in the national Congress, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, said on Friday that the plebiscite will only be held if it is deemed “legal,” and called on the central government of Mariano Rajoy to negotiate. “Some day they will have to open up the Constitution; they cannot keep saying no to everything.”

Then he added that the alternative to a referendum would be new regional elections. The Catalan premier, Artur Mas, has made regional independence the linchpin of his political program, arguing that Catalonia's severe financial problems are largely due to Madrid’s refusal to negotiate better terms for the region.