Catalan Left split over independence referendum route

Xavier Domènech of Catalunya En Comú party declined to attend referendum summit. Photo: Julio Carbo / El Periódico
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• En Comú boycotts meeting, Podemos affiliate won’t support unilateral plebiscite
• Socialists remain firm against referendum, ERC & CUP support unilateral route

Political parties to the left of centre in Catalonia on Monday showed their split over what increasingly appears to be a move by Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont of the centre-right Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (PDeCAT, formerly Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya) toward holding a unilateral referendum on Catalan independence in defiance of Spain’s federal government in Madrid and the country’s highest court on constitutional matters, the Tribunal Constitucional.

In his role as regional president. Puigdemont on Monday convened an urgent meeting of all parties to consider setting a date for a unilateral referendum, but in doing so managed to shine a light on a division within the previously established broader mechanism known as the Pacte Nacional pel Referèndum (National Pact for a Referendum, or PNR), which agroups all parties in Catalonia in favor of holding a referendum but not necessarily one that would be held in violation of Spain’s constitutional prohibition of such plebiscites and without the buy-in of the central government in Madrid.

Xavier Domènech of Catalonia’s regional Catalunya en Comú party, recently founded with the support of Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau to participate in regional elections anticipated for later this year, declined to attend the meeting saying it was inappropriate of Puigdemont to bypass the agreed-upon PNR mechanism. Albano Dante Fachín of the regional Podem affiliate of national anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can) attended, saying his party wanted to hear what Puigdemont had to say but that Podem would in no way support a unilateral referendum without the negotiated consent of the central government of conservative Partido Popular (PP) president Mariano Rajoy.

The regional affiliate in Catalonia of Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE), meanwhile, adhered to the national party line of rejection of any referendum conducted outside a reform of Spain’s Constitution, as expressed Monday in a phone call between Rajoy newly re-elected PSOE secretary general Pedro Sánchez. Rajoy’s handling of the Catalan independence issue to date is highly unpopular across Spain, with 77 percent of Spaniards interviewed by polling firm Metroscopia saying Rajoy has mishandled the situation during his more than five years in office.

In pushing forward toward a unilateral referendum that the courts have warned is illegal and unconstitutional, Puigdemont has said he is doing so because his government has been left no other choice by Rajoy’s unwillingness to negotiate a referendum under any circumstances and an unwillingness to consider constitutional reforms that would enable such a vote. Supporting the move toward a unilateral referendum in Catalonia is Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia), partner with PDeCAT in the regional pro-independence Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) coalition, as well as the far-left Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP, United People’s Candidacy).

► Read More in Spanish at El Periódico, El País and La Vanguardia …

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