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Law experts question Catalan group’s roadmap to fast-track independence

ANC wants sovereignty for Catalonia by April 23, 2015, no matter what

Catalans show their support for independence by forming a human chain across the region during national day celebrations last September. / pere duran

The National Catalan Assembly (ANC), a private association set up to help achieve independence for the region, is pressuring the Catalan government into calling early elections “as soon as possible” if a popular referendum scheduled for November 9 does not take place.

ANC president Carme Forcadell on Thursday rejected the option of having regional premier Artur Mas, the leader of the CiU coalition, wait until the end of his term in 2016 before holding new elections.

The ANC, which has 22,000 members, wants independence by 2015 at the latest. If legal hurdles to the referendum become too large — and Madrid is invoking the constitutional impossibility of such a poll — the association wants Catalonia to hold early elections of “a plebiscitary nature” that would in essence play the same role as a referendum. If Mas were re-elected, it would represent a popular nod to the sovereignty drive.

But the ANC’s petition is putting the more moderate wing of CiU against the ropes. A 16-page document that the pro-sovereignty group will approve on April 5 is already raising all kinds of questions among Catalan parties and experts consulted by EL PAÍS.

I cannot see where the ANC gets the legitimacy to decide this in the name of the Catalan nation”

The document establishes four hypothetical roads to independence (there is no other possible outcome), with or without an agreement with Madrid: an authorized referendum; an unauthorized referendum;the plebiscitary elections, and the emergency plan should Madrid “intervene” and take over the Catalan government.

If such a worst-case scenario were to unfold, the ANC would unilaterally proclaim independence and “appoint a provisional government to execute its decision.”

But experts are wary about the legitimacy of the group and its mission.

“I just cannot see where they get the legitimacy to make this decision in the name of the entire [Catalan] nation,” notes Xavier Arbós, a professor of constitutional law at Barcelona University and a supporter of the referendum. “There is no respectable replacement for the direct expression of the popular will.”

“These representatives have not been elected for the role they are meant to play,” adds Xavier Coller, a sociology professor at Seville’s Pablo de Olavide University.

In fact, the ANC wants to proclaim independence by April 23, 2015, after a five-month negotiation with Madrid. By comparison, Scotland and Britain are giving themselves two years to work out hypothetical independence for that region.

“Even Russia has given itself a year to adapt Crimea’s legislative framework,” notes Joan Botella, a professor of political science at Barcelona’s Autónoma University.

 

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