Carles Puigdemont, the president for independence

Catalan MonitorArticles

When the 2015 Parliamentary election was won by pro-independence parties, Carles Puigdemont was elected MP. He was a member of Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya, the then hegemonic party. A few months afterwards, the elected Premier, Artur Mas was forced to resign. He had to submit to the conditions posed by the CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular), another pro-independence force, without whom there was no possible majority. Their conditions were, in brief, that Artur Mas should not continue in power since he was a newly convert to the independence cause and he was stained by corruption. To save the majority, Artur Mas agreed to step down and relinquish his seat in parliament. He designed as a successor Carles Puigdemont, a young journalist with an uncontestable pro-independence CV and with experience in government, as a mayor of Girona, one of the main cities in Catalonia. Mas’s suggestion was well accepted. He was elected by an absolute majority as a new Chairman of the Catalan Government. From his first speech in Parliament, the new Premier made it clear that the legislature would be short, the necessary time to prepare a self-determination referendum, that is, to know, through ballots, which future the Catalans wanted for themselves.

The new Premier was not making the decision up. It was simply the way to pick up the fruit of a process towards independence that had matured on the last years. In concrete, Carles Puigdemont assummed the process that, even though it had its roots in centuries of history of resistance to the Spanish centralising domination, had accelerated after 2006. It had been precisely that year when the reform of the Catalan Home Rule was done the better to adapt itself to democratic progress and challenges of the European Union and finished up being beheaded by the Constitutional Court in that which signified an advance towards self-government, an intervention that mocked that what had been decided in referendum by the Catalan people.

This antidemocratic involvement became the spark that lit the spirits of thousands of Catalans and brought them to react with protests, always civil and democratic. Since 2010, these responses have been massive demonstrations each 11th of September, National Day of Catalonia, always above 1 million people (a record in Europe, specially if we take into account that Catalonia has only got 7.5 million inhabitants).

One of the characteristics of such demonstrations is that they always finished with the unanimous cry for independence. Carles Puigdemont was well aware of it, and also that this mobilisation was assumed by the majority of local councils, who facilitated citizen expression on this matter by means of civic consultations (results were consistently over 80% in favour of independence). Likewise did the Catalan executive to co-operate with the organisation, on the 9th of November 2014, of a consultation for all the citizenship on the political future of Catalonia. (This pseudo-referendum – since the official one had been banned by the Spanish government- got almost 2.5 million votes for independence, 88% of those who participated). Before this stubborn reality, then, Premier Puigdemont started to work with the support of civil society and the parliamentary majority to make a referendum possible, one which would be official and whose result would be implemented. The Premier has not stopped to ask for a pact on this issue with the Central government. Not only they’ve not listened but hey have threatened to intervene with their juridical and political weapons, to prevent any intent to advance towards the referendum.

The clash is now a fact. It goes around the illegality of a referendum versus its legitimity; the inconstitutionality of its celebration versus a right within the democracy parameters; the alleged opposition of Europeans to any new fragmentation of the EU versus the challenge of overcoming actual divisions and re-take the values of living together on the basis of an union which respects difference; defence of the Europe of constituted and exclusivist states versus an Europe of the real Peoples, an inclusive Europe, even with new states… Before the constant negative of the Spanish government, the Catalan Premier, in a show of coherence and determination has decided to call for an unilateral referendum, provided that the central government persists in its negative. Puigdemont knows the risk of this decision: a condemn by Spanish courts, disqualification or even arrest and imprisonment. But he also knows he counts on the support of the great majority of Catalans.

During the months that the preparation of this democratically long-wished referendum but despotically refused will take, Carles Puigdemont has presented itself before society as a clairvoyant and coherent man, gifted with uncommon patience, always with the smile of those who believe in hope, quick and strong to those who attack him in the chamber of representatives. His steadfastness imparts security to those who are still afraid of being punished by who defends that repression is the price of the statu quo, against those who are convinced that the practice of democracy is that which will make us free, to be actors of a living together based on mutual respect.

The moment has come in which Catalans and all those who take an interest in Catalonia, have listened to the voice of Carles Puigdemont, who announces a radical change, peaceful and democratic, in the history of Catalonia and of the Peoples of Europe: the referendum for self-determination will be held on the 1st of October with the question “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a Republic?”, a first popular echo of this announcement is the demonstration that will take place on the 11th of June under the motto “Referendum is Democracy”, and the reading of a Manifesto by Pep Guardiola, the well-known coach of the Manchester City F. C.

Aureli Argemí

Chairman Emeritus of the CIEMEN