Catalan independence bid on hold after failure to elect leader

Separatist premier Artur Mas struggles to gain vital support of left-wing CUP party

  CUP assembly debates  whether to support  the investiture of Catalonian acting president Artur Mas. Photograph: EPA/Alberto Estevez

CUP assembly debates whether to support the investiture of Catalonian acting president Artur Mas. Photograph: EPA/Alberto Estevez


The future of Catalonia’s push for independence is on a knife-edge after a highly anticipated internal vote yesterday by the separatist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party failed to break a two-month deadlock over who should lead the secessionist movement.

Artur Mas is the serving Catalan premier and has been the figurehead of the region’s independence bid. However, despite winning regional elections on September 27th, his Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) coalition failed to win a majority of seats. In order to be instated as premier again, Mr Mas needed the support of the relatively small CUP, which has 10 seats.

It held a vote on whether to back him and after three extremely tight rounds of voting in a sports hall in the town of Sabadell, CUP members failed to turn in a decision. The third round of voting saw 1,515 votes in favour of Mr Mas and exactly the same number against.

A radical anti-capitalist party, CUP shares Mr Mas’s desire for the creation of a Catalan state. However, until now it had refused to support him as leader of the region – and the independence bid – because of his economic policy, which has included privatisations, and a series of corruption scandals affecting politicians close to him.

Painful dilemma

“We can’t say either option is the winner, as some had hoped,” said Anna Gabriel of CUP after the result of the vote was announced.

In November, Junts pel Sí and CUP voted together in favour of a secessionist declaration of intent, setting out a roadmap for independence which would culminate in the creation of a new state by spring of 2017. The lack of agreement on who should lead this project has put it on hold.

Senior CUP figures are now expected to make the final decision early next month. If Mr Mas does not gain its support, new Catalan elections will be held unless an alternative consensus candidate can swiftly be found.

The developments in Catalonia come amid a stalemate in Spanish national politics, following inconclusive general elections on December 20th.

With the Popular Party of prime minister Mariano Rajoy winning but without enough seats to govern, all eyes are on the Socialist Party, which came second. Its leader, Pedro Sánchez, has said he will not allow Mr Rajoy to be invested, meaning he could have the chance to form a leftist governing partnership.