Catalan Vote Leaves Anti-Capitalists With Keys to Regional Power

  • Mas needs CUP support to form majority in Catalan parliament
  • CUP support jumps in Catalan vote framed as secession choice

The Popular Unity Candidacy party holds the keys to power in Catalonia after it won enough voter support to help guide the region’s push to separate from Spain.

While pro-independence platform Junts pel Si won Catalonia’s elections on Sunday, it must still rely on CUP, as the party is known, to back its plan to break away from Spain in the regional parliament. The problem? They agree on independence but disagree on much more.

Catalan President Artur Mas framed Sunday’s regional elections as a vote on secession as he steps up his challenge to the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. To be able to press ahead with his independence campaign, Mas must now rely on the backing of a party that disagrees with him on key points of principle and disputes his right to lead the movement to break from Spain.

“They need to support Mas in order to kick off the process of independence, but have serious differences,” said Antonio Barroso, political analyst at Teneo Intelligence.

From the timing of secession to economic policy, the CUP’s agenda poses a political headache for Mas and his main separatist ally Oriol Junqueras, who want to break away from Spain within 18 months while keeping the euro. CUP wants an immediate declaration of independence and wants out of the euro zone.

Adding to tensions is the role played by Mas. In the run-up to the Sept. 27 vote, the CUP repeatedly said they wanted Mas out of the picture, and that they wouldn’t support his candidacy for president of the Catalan parliament.
Assessing the results on Sunday night, CUP leader Antonio Banos reiterated that Mas could be dispensed if such a step is necessary for independence to go ahead. With 62 seats, Junts pel Si would still need the support of the CUP in the 135-seat regional assembly to be able to govern with a clear majority.

“What’s clear is that Mas has a problem,” Banos said in an interview with Bloomberg News after the results were announced. ”We’ve always said this project is much bigger than one person, and doesn’t revolve around the figure of Artur Mas.”

Banos also called for Catalans to disobey Spanish laws as they press for independence and said austerity in Catalonia would come to an end under his watch.

“Starting tomorrow, Spanish laws can be disobeyed and will have to be disobeyed if we’re serious about independence,” said Banos. “We have to take this risk.”

Junqueras of Junts pel Si has also flirted with the idea of civil disobedience before, saying Catalans should draw inspiration from Martin Luther King. Even so, the CUP’s tone is much aggressive and contradicts the approach taken by the moderate separatists such as Mas, who want to negotiate first.

The CUP disagrees -- and its voters too. At the central Barcelona venue where they watched results come in on a large television screen, many shouted “independence” and sang the communist anthem L’Internationale.

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