Artur Mas, the President of Cataluña, has reacted to recent demands for an independent Cataluña by calling early regional elections. Susanna Sáez,
Cataluña, the northeastern region of Spain, is to go to the polls in snap elections on 25th November, it was announced this week.
Catalan President, Artur Mas, has taken the decision to call regional early elections as demands for Catalan independence grow.
“I have decided to call an election for November 25,” he told the regional parliament at the start of a three-day debate on Tuesday.
He added: “It is time to take the risk. The moment has come for Cataluña to exercise its right to self-determination. He added:_“If Cataluña were a state we would be among the 50 biggest exporting countries in the world.”
The move comes five days after Spain’s central government flatly rejected a fiscal pact in which Cataluña would have had far greater control over its tax revenue.
And just two weeks after a reported 1.5 million people took to the famous boulevards of the region’s capital, Barcelona, to demand Cataluña’s independence from Spain.
The elections are widely viewed as a de facto referendum for enhanced independence. Should Artur Mas win the election, which has been called two years ahead of full term, he would, in effect, be handed a fresh mandate to push for independence.
An actual referendum on the matter, however, is prohibited by the Spanish constitution.
Cataluña has always been a region which is proud of its heritage, culture and language and there has long-been many who have sought its independence.
But why has the drive for greater, or total, self-rule been galvanised to such an extent in recent months?
Julio Gil Pérez, a Barcelona-based journalist, tells SUR in English: “In many ways, this growing political movement is being led by economics.
“The Catalan people pay more tax than others in Spain and the region gives the central government between 12 and 16 billion euros more than it gets back.
“An increasing number of Catalans think that it is unfair that Cataluña, which only has 15 per cent of the total population, keeps subsidising the country, that many feel is on the brink of economic meltdown.
“They are especially angered because Cataluña has its fair share of its own problems: it’s Spain’s most indebted region and recently had to ask Madrid for a 5 billion euro bailout, even though it is implementing harsh austerity measures.
The snap elections announced by Cataluña, which could pave the way for the country’s economic powerhouse to declare independence from Madrid, is somewhat of a nightmare scenario for the central government.
Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right administration has seen its popularity plummet recently as a groundswell of resentment grows over austerity measures and the economic crisis deepens.
Speaking on behalf of the government in response to the news, the Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, said: “I think this debate, at this time, is creating tremendous instability. With all these actions a new crisis is being added to the crisis.”
Events are fast-moving in Cataluña and they once again highlight how economic suffering can drive a separatist political agenda. Something, of course, which many parts of Europe have witnessed in the past.