Far-Left Fanatics Jeopardize Catalan Secession Plans

One small party could put independence from Spain on hold unless it shows a little pragmatism for once.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont makes a speech in the regional legislature in Barcelona, June 1
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont makes a speech in the regional legislature in Barcelona, June 1 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Catalonia’s separatists have never got this close to breaking away from Spain, but a small anticapitalist party could dash their hopes of independence unless it for once shows a little pragmatism.

The far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) has only ten out of 135 seats in the regional assembly, but those ten seats are the difference between Carles Puigdemont’s separatist majority and the nationalist opposition, led by the liberal Ciudadanos.

The CUP this week voted down Puigdemont’s budget proposal, prompting the regional president to thunder, “I trusted you and I have defended you to the end, but you have disappointed the hopes of thousands of people!”

Without approval for his spending plan, Puigdemont could have no choice but to call early elections which the pro-independence parties might lose.

His last resort is to force the CUP to support him in a confidence vote after the holiday in August.

Unwieldy coalition

Puigdemont’s center-right Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya and the Republican Left jointly contested the last election on a plan to secede from Spain. Their alliance, Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes), fell six seats short of a majority.

At the last minute, CUP leaders agreed to join the coalition, even though a party congress had deadlocked over whether or not to go into government for the first time.

The CUP’s far-left economic program never sat well with Puigdemont’s pro-business policies.

Nor are its plans for post-independence similar to those of Junts pel Sí. Whereas the latter want Catalonia to stay in the euro, the European Union and NATO, the CUP wants to leave all three.

Catalans divided

Polls suggest Catalans are evenly split on independence. An official survey last year showed a plurality in favor of Catalonia becoming an even more autonomous entity or a federal state within Spain.

But the government in Madrid has ruled out such options and repeatedly blocked a formal independence referendum in what is Spain’s wealthiest region.

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