Catalan Separatist Faces Party Revolt After Losing Barcelona

Regional President Artur Mas’s bid to win independence for Catalonia faces a challenge on Sunday as a key group of supporters votes on abandoning his cause.

Members of Unio, the smaller of the two parties forming Mas’s CiU movement, will hold a ballot whether to continue backing his road map for breaking away from Spain.

The vote comes less than a month after CiU lost control of Barcelona city hall and saw its support fall in local elections across the region. The slump suggests CiU and its separatist ally Esquerra Republicana may struggle to retain its current outright majority in the regional parliament, according to a poll released in March by regional government pollster Centre d’Estudis d’Opinio.

“The future of Unio could determine whether or not there is a democratic majority in favor of the independence process,” Antoni Castella, a member of Unio’s executive committee who supports Mas’s proposals, said in an interview Thursday. “It’s crucial.”

Mas plans to hold a regional election on Sept. 27 and, if his pro-independence alliance can win a majority, he’ll use the result to begin the process of seceding from Spain. Mas’s road map includes a unilateral declaration of independence should he fail to negotiate an exit with the Spain government. He’s already working to build state institutions and expanding the regional tax agency.

Longstanding Alliance

Unio is turning to its membership of about 4,000 after the party’s executive committee failed to settle its position on independence at a meeting in February. Even the question that will be put to members has sparked controversy, with nine of the executive voting against it earlier this month.

The result of that tussle means that members opposed to independence will be voting ‘yes.’

Convergencia and Unio have run as a single CiU franchise in regional and general elections since 1978 and have lent their support to both Socialist and People’s Party governments at the national level.

CiU and Esquerra are on track to win about 63 seats in September’s ballot, short of the 68 needed for an outright majority, according to a March survey from the regional government pollster and based on 2,000 interviews and margin of error of 2.69 percent. That’s compares with 71 seats projected in December.

“Unio isn’t a very important party from the quantitative point of view,” Lluis Orriols, a political scientist at Madrid’s Carlos III University, said in a telephone interview. “But given the current voting intentions, it’s key for Mas.”

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