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REGIONAL POLITICS

The end of an era: Catalan nationalist bloc CiU breaks up after 37 years

Dissent over independence bid is behind move that comes three months before elections

Catalan Premier Artur Mas (left) will have to replace his deputy Joana Ortega (next to him) due to the breakup of the ruling bloc CiU.
Catalan Premier Artur Mas (left) will have to replace his deputy Joana Ortega (next to him) due to the breakup of the ruling bloc CiU.

In a historical, game-changing decision for Catalan politics, the two parties that make up Convergence and Union (CiU) are going their separate ways after 37 years of nearly uninterrupted joint rule in the region.

“The CiU political project is over,” said Josep Rull, coordinator general for Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), at a press conference on Thursday. The party leader and regional premier, Artur Mas, was not present at the event.

The decision was made by CDC after the Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC) refused to support its Catalan independence project. The pro-sovereignty drive led by Artur Mas, which came to a head with an unofficial referendum on self-rule last year, had already run into opposition from CDC’s longtime partner before this. Although both parties share a nationalist vision of Catalonia, UDC holds more moderate views, which fall short of independence.

How many more things need to break up before you will admit that unilateral independence is not feasible?”

Catalan Socialist leader Miquel Iceta to Artur Mas

Now, officials have confirmed that CiU will not be running jointly at the regional elections scheduled for September 27, which Convergence leaders see as a litmus test for their independence drive.

“We have ended a political project, and want the separation to take place on friendly terms,” added Rull at a press conference. “We’ll see how we do it, we don’t have a GPS for this.”

The partners now have to share out their common assets and reach deals on issues such as subsidies for elected officials and campaign airtime. But in the meantime, the quarreling has begun: UDC claims that it is CDC who broke the alliance, not the other way around.

Also up in the air is the future of Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, until now the CiU spokesman in Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies.

“We’ll have to figure out whether there will be one group in Congress or two, but we’ll decide that tomorrow,” said Rull. “Things will not be the same in Congress anymore.”

Rull said there is no going back on the breakup, although both former partners may still reach vote-by-vote agreements on specific issues.

No introspection required

According to the regional premier, Artur Mas, this early government breakup should not lead to any soul-searching, as it is not the result of disagreements on everyday matters, but a lack of joint vision about the future.

“It’s not that we have systematically voted separately or anything like that, it’s that there is a fundamental discrepancy over a project," said Mas, who thanked the three UDC members of his Cabinet who will now be replaced, including his deputy Joana Ortega.

Around 1.8 million people voted in favor of Catalan independence on November 9, 2014.
Around 1.8 million people voted in favor of Catalan independence on November 9, 2014. EFE

Meanwhile, opposition parties strongly criticized Mas for the government crisis and for the effects that his sovereignty drive is having on Catalan politics.

“Today we should ask for your immediate resignation and new elections, but there’s no time for that because we’re already having them in three months,” said Miquel Iceta, the leader of the Catalan Socialists, during question time at the Catalan assembly on Wednesday. “How many more things need to break up before you will admit that unilateral independence is not feasible? To divide Catalanism is to make Catalonia weaker.”

“Everything you touch gets divided and broken up,” said Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, leader of the Catalan branch of the Popular Party.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, who sits in the Catalan parliament, said that the independence drive is in retreat thanks to Mas’s decisions.

The only political leader who refrained from criticizing Mas was Oriol Junqueras of the Catalan Republican Left, a minority party that strongly supports the independence drive.

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