dimarts, d’octubre 02, 2012

Debate over Catalan secession hots up (Julius Purcell, 02-10-2012 FINANCIAL TIMES)

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9113ddaa-0be8-11e2-8032-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz288drGqmh Debate over Catalan secession hots up By Julius Purcell in Barcelona Pro-independence supporters wave Catalan flags during a demonstration in Barcelona©AP Parties opposed to independence for Catalonia are heading for a heavy defeat in a snap parliamentary election in November, according to opinion polls, with the prospect of a referendum on secession from Spain sharply polarising the political debate in the region. The polls are the first since Artur Mas, the Catalan president, shocked Spain and unnerved financial markets last week with a call for early regional elections. Mr Mas has held out a promise of a referendum on secession from Spain on the heels of a mass-independence rally last month. Most constitutional experts consider a referendum on secession illegal under Spain’s constitution. The Catalan Socialist, and conservative Popular party, both running on anti-independence tickets, however, look set for heavy losses. One poll, for El Periodico, the Catalan daily, suggested Mr Mas’ centre-right party, Convergència i Unió, would not achieve an absolute majority, a scenario that would increase the political leverage for Catalonia’s two pro-independence minority parties. The poll suggested the separatist Republican Left of Catalonia, may add up to eight more seats to the 10 it already holds while the Catalan Socialist and Popular parties could each lose up to a quarter of their seats. While the region’s junk-bond rating and appeal for a €5bn credit line from Madrid dominated press coverage until recently, Catalonia’s debt crisis has been eclipsed by Mr Mas’ referendum plan. The polls come amid a general raising of the political temperature – and escalating threat and counter-threat between Spanish centralisers and Catalan separatists – following Mr Mas’ vow that, if necessary, he would hold a referendum whether it was ruled legal or not. Spain’s deputy prime minister, SorayaSáenz de Santamaría, warned last week that the government would use all judicial means at its disposal to stop Mr Mas’ plans for a referendum. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a prominent member of Spain’s ruling Popular party in Catalonia, went further, suggesting that if Mr Mas continued down the path of secession, Madrid should send in the country’s Civil Guards to impose central control. “They should be briefing a General of the Civil Guard . . . the government should think of intervening in the rebellious region if they persist,”, Mr Vidal-Quadras, a member of the European parliament, told Spanish TV. The comments, which immediately resonated in a country that experienced a failed coup attempt by Civil Guards in 1981, prompted complaints to the European parliament from Catalan MEPs. In a message aimed at reassuring business figures on Monday, Mr Mas called for calm. “There is no need for fear, because the process will be purely peaceful,” he said, shortly after formally dissolving the Catalan parliament. However, in comments likely to further raise tensions on Monday, one-time Popular party interior minister, Jaime Mayor Oreja, appeared to compare Catalan nationalists with the Basque terrorist group Eta. “Eta is seeing a historic opportunity that Spain will break up,” Mr Mayor told Spanish radio. “A break-up plan that has been implanted both in Catalonia and the Basque Country.” Catalonia’s Socialist party, which is divided on secession, has attempted to stake out an anti-independence position between what it sees as two extremes. After winning a hastily staged leadership election over the weekend, the new Catalan Socialist leader Pere Navarro referred to Mr Mas as “a false prophet”. “What we are seeing is polarisation,” Mr Navarro told The Financial Times on Monday. “On the one hand, the Popular party want to return us to a centralised system, and on the other, the Catalan president may be pursuing an illegal process.” “I think people will value our bridge-building with Spain,” he said of his party’s faltering poll figures. “We are in a terrible economic position, and what people want is stability.”