Catalan Kingmakers Urge Disobedience to Push Secession Talks

  • The CUP wants immediate unilateral declaration of independence
  • Party won't support re-election of Mas as regional president

A group of Catalan pro-independence protesters are seen waving the Catalan pro-independence flag during a mass rally in Placa de Catalunya, in Barcelona, Spain.

Photographer: Juanjo Perez Monclus/Bloomberg

The Popular Unity Candidacy, an anti-capitalist party that could hold the key to the next Catalan parliament, will urge separatists to use civil disobedience as part of a strategy to force the Spanish government to negotiate the terms of the region’s independence.

Catalonia’s main separatist platform may need the support of the CUP, as the party is known in Spanish, to form a pro-independence majority after Sunday’s regional election with polls projecting the mainstream group will fall just short on its own.

Should that happen, it will pose a dilemma for regional President Artur Mas: not only has the CUP pledged not to support Mas’s re-election as leader of Spain’s biggest regional economy, but the group’s natural antipathy to the Catalan business class from which Mas draws much of his support would make it difficult to agree on the framework for a new state. The CUP is already calling for a much more aggressive approach than Mas.

“We have to get to a negotiation whatever the cost and whatever the pain,” Josep Manel Busqueta, a trained economist who’s running on the CUP ticket, said in an interview in Barcelona Wednesday. “On issues like tax, we could propose disobeying the Spanish laws to start following rules agreed on at the Catalan level instead.”

Mas and his main separatist ally Oriol Junqueras want to use a majority in the regional assembly to force central-government officials in Madrid to the negotiating table with a view to completing secession within 18 months. The CUP wants an immediate declaration of independence.

A poll published by Cadena Ser radio station on Monday showed Mas and Junqueras’s alliance set to win as many as 65 seats, three short of a majority in the 135-strong parliament. The CUP was projected to win at least nine seats.

Martin Luther King

The Catalan National Assembly, a civic group that has led hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets of Barcelona each September for the past four years, also considers civil disobedience as part of the process of secession, its chairman, Jordi Sanchez, said in a Sept. 12 interview with the regional government’s Catalunya Radio.

Junqueras has flirted with the idea, saying Catalans should draw inspiration from Martin Luther King before last year’s disputed referendum.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is stonewalling the Catalan nationalists, saying their demands are illegal. Spain would probably have to change its constitution to allow Catalonia to leave, a move that would require a super majority in both the lower house of parliament and the Senate and probably a referendum.

Rajoy has a majority in both chambers and the constitution was last revised in 2011 when Rajoy, then the opposition leader, supported his predecessor, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in including restrictions on the country’s budget deficit as the administration battled to avoid a bailout.

The CUP is looking for another legal concession from officials in Madrid.

“If the state doesn’t respect the democratic mandate it would lead to a deadlock that would create very great instabilities for the Spanish state,” said Busqueta, who was an adviser to the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2004. “In the end, disobedience is just a mechanism to force a negotiation.”

Nerves are fraying as the elections loom.

Earlier Thursday, there was a tense moment at the Barcelona Mayor’s palace when Deputy Mayor Gerardo Pisarello tried to prevent People’s Party councillor Alberto Fernandez from displaying a Spanish flag after separatist supporters hung a pro-independence banner from the building’s balcony.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.