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"Only Catalan premier can call early elections"

Source: El Pais - Mon 20th Oct 2014
'Only Catalan premier can call early elections'

A week after the Catalan government said its planned November 9 referendum on self-rule was to be replaced by an unofficial vote, mounting divisions within the pro-sovereignty camp have forced officials to issue a reminder about who's in charge in the northeastern region.

"The power to call elections is the exclusive and non-transferable right of the premier of the Generalitat [the Catalan executive]," said government spokesman Francesc Homs on Monday.

The statement was a response to growing pressure from pro-independence civil associations the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural to hold early elections in the region within the next 3 months.

Both groups, which have been actively mobilizing sympathetic Catalans to their cause, want these elections to act as an unofficial plebiscite on the issue of independence after Catalan leader Artur Mas said the official referendum would not be held because of lack of sufficient legal backing.

Spain's ruling Partido Popular has appealed the original referendum in the Constitutional Court, which suspended all vote-related activities until it decides if the initiative is legal or not.

While Mas initially appeared to ignore the suspension, he relented a few days later, calling Spain "a powerful adversary" that is preventing the Catalan nation from expressing its wishes.

The pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC), the Initiative for Catalan Greens (ICV) and Popular Unity Candidates (CUP) disagreed with Mas's decision and have since been increasingly critical of the Catalan government's moves.

The Catalan spokesman on Monday admitted that Mas, of the conservative CiU nationalist bloc, was considering early plebiscite elections but refused to talk about dates.

He said Mas would soon convene all the parties that support the right to decide to try to "recompose" their lost unity.

In an attempt to launch a message of calm, Homs also announced that the government had reached a "technical agreement" with the CUP to assure that the Catalan government would not go back on the unofficial, non-binding vote scheduled for November 9, as it did with the referendum.

The agreement, which the government hopes that at least the ERC will also sign up to, lays out plans for the creation of a technical body from the parties to verify the operations needed to hold the vote. It would also activate a territorial control committee and guarantee the political "plurality" of these working groups.

The government would also be obliged to share the details of the campaigns it runs to encourage participation in the vote with the other parties and organizations. It would also try to bring in international observers.

For its part, the CUP has forced the regional government to sign a document expressing its good will to make the November 9 vote possible. At the same time, Mas's administration would also be responsible for any incidents that might occur during the vote.

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