Artur Mas Announces Early Elections for November 25th 2012

Speech - General Political Debate 25/9/2012

During the General Political Debate in the Parliament of Catalonia of September 25th 2012, President Mas announced that he would be advancing the elections to November 25th.

Mas's government still had two years left to serve but recent events, most notably the pro-independence Diada of September 11th and Mariano Rajoy's refusal to negotiate a fiscal pact, had convinced the president that it was necessary to try gain a political mandate from the Catalan people on whether the majority wanted to continue with the Catalan independence process.

What follows is the last section of Artur Mas's speech in which the President gives his reasons and announces his decision.


"I now start the final part of my last address as President of the Generalitat in this legislature by bringing together some of the thoughts I considered at the beginning of the session.

In my investiture speech in December 2010, I spoke of the national transition that had to be brought about. I added, without restrictions. An idea I have since repeated on various occasions. My argument was, and still is, that in the same way as Spain went through its transition to democracy at the end of the seventies and start of the eighties, Catalonia also needs to go through its own transition based on the right to decide.

This means that the political party that I represent, together with the other Catalan political parties, has worked over a long period of more than three decades, constantly and loyally, to turn Spain into a democratic, European, prosperous, wealthy and modern State. And I think to a great extent this has been accomplished.

We did this in the hope, or even in the confidence, that this kind of Spain, equipped with an open and flexible Constitution, would overcome its atavistic demons and would allow Catalonia to start developing its own self-government, its identity and social model naturally and progressively.

The PP's absolute majority between the years 2000 and 2004 already gave clear symptoms that things were not moving in this direction. Immediately after, the process of the Estatut of 2006 became an authentic torment; the old demons of anti-Catalanism showed themselves again all over the place. Catalan mistakes, which did exist, were quickly magnified and Spain bragged of having imposed its restrictions without any sense of modesty. Four years later, the Constitutional Court after months and months of denigrating spectacle with accusations, challenges, expired mandates and internal brawls in full view of the public finally axed the Estatut that had been approved by the people of Catalonia by referendum. Apart from the content of the sentence, already destructive on the main points, they added the corresponding humiliation.

The Catalan people's reaction wasn't long in coming. A great demonstration, under the slogan "We are a nation, we decide!" filled the streets in the centre of Barcelona on July 10th 2010. That Constitution that so many Catalans had voted for, defended and developed stopped being an open space where the desires of the Catalan people could spread their wings and became a cage designed to domesticate our aspirations.

I said in Madrid and I repeat today that, in this context and after the massive Diada demonstration, slamming the door on the Fiscal Pact proposed by this Parliament represents missing a historic opportunity.

It is true that President Rajoy said that I should take the Fiscal Pact to the Spanish Parliament, to be specific, to the Congress. It is also true that my reply was No, because I did not want to go through a new via crucis and another humiliation. This time Congress won't vote, this time the Catalan people will vote.

I know that over the last few days there ave been speculations over whether elections needed to be called or not. How can't there be elections after the demonstration on September 11th? Everyone knows that the demonstration has a before and an after. As I said at the beginning of my address, the voice of the street has become the voice of the ballot box because it is the only way to find out if those that didn't go on the demonstration are all against what was said there, or if all those in favour were really present. This is the greatness of democracy: when you are going through exceptional situations that might have a deep historical dimension, you have to subject yourself to the verdict of the people, who with its vote will decide which routes to take in the future. The Parliament and Government that come out of these elections will be the depositaries of a mandate that the citizens have decided at the ballot.

On more than one occasion this Parliament has voted in favour of the fact that Catalonia has the right to self-determination. The time has come to exercise that right. Democratically, peacefully and constructively. There is no need to look for external enemies; we just have to concentrate on our own internal strength as a people and as a nation.

We are endorsed by a thousand-year history: we are endorsed, as Pau Casals said before the United Nations, by being one of the oldest democracies in Europe, if not the oldest; we are endorsed by the survival of an institution, the Generalitat, that digs its roots back to the Middle Ages and was restored before the Spanish Constitution; we are endorsed by an identity forged over centuries and based on culture not on race or ethnicity, and precisely because our identity is cultural, it can never be aggressive or exclusive; we are endorsed by a language that has survived insurrections, military coups, wars, dictatorships and laws that tried to silence for ever but never completely succeeded, we are endorsed by our identification with Europe, to such an extent that we don't only say that we belong to Europe but that we are Europe; and above all this, which is not minor importance, we are endorsed by our desire to be. We want respect for who we are, and not to have to ask for it every day nor to have to justify who we are.

We want the same tools that other nations have in order to conserve our collective personality and to develop a project for our country and society.

Catalonia is a country of dialogue and pacts. But it's not a country of Yes men. Do not confuse an attitude of looking for agreement and a mentality based on understanding through dialogue with an amorphous attitude or prepared to live under any circumstances. We can be everybody's friend, and we've often shown this to be true, but not in exchange for stopping being Catalans. Not in exchange for watering down our personality. Not in exchange for giving up on a collective project in the service of the seven and a half million citizens of this country.

The journey that Catalonia is about to embark on will be full of hindrances. There will slander, provocation and threats of all kinds. They will say that Catalonia is gettng close to the edge and they will try to use people's language and geographical origin to create divisions between them. Those who fall for this would do well to remember that the Castilian language also forms part of Catalan heritage, just like Catalan ought to be in Spain. And what's more, it's a much-loved heritage. And they should also remember that dividing Catalonia by people's origin would be an authentic aberration, because Catalonia's soul has grown out of a mixture of people from different places.

In the times ahead, Catalonia will need big majorities, to have a strong will and a great capacity for resistance. We have demonstrated this on many occasions throughout our collective history. Without looking any further, today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the river floods of the Vall├Ęs. That terrible blow was overcome thanks to the solidarity of the people.

I said this a few days ago and I'll repeat it today: nothing will be easy, but everything is possible. The Catalan people need to freely decide their future journey, their horizon: here you find the reason for the elections. Let all of us submit ourselves to their will. Let all of us respect their verdict.

We all know, we are all aware that the Parliament that comes from the ballot will have to face a historic mission, probably the most complex and momentous of the last three hundred years. It's also the most risky, the one in which we have the most to gain, or to lose.

Precisely because of the importance of the moment we are going through as a country, and the magnitude of the decisions we have to take, it is advisable to listen closely to the voice of the people we represent and that we place the decision on the future of the nation in their hands.

I know that elections are almost always a scenario that encourages confrontation between the parties. It is inevitable that this happens but we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the times we'll soon be going through will need, will almost demand, a high sense of state and of country and a heavy dose of generosity, even at a personal level.

Over the last few days I have thought a lot about in what way I could contribute as President of the country to muffle the noise that the confrontation between parties provokes in elections. I've thought about generosity and the sense of country that I, more than anyone else, will have to show and practice.

For this reason, I'm announcing that once Catalonia has achieved the national objectives that the people decide, I will not stand again in elections for the Presidency of the Generalitat and I hope, desire and trust that these objectives will be achieved in the next legislature, better in one than in two if that is possible. As you will understand, this is not an easy decision, in fact, it is a strictly personal decision taken strictly in the country's interests. The reason for my decision is easy to understand: to face a self-determination process requires the president that leads it to have a special strength that only the people can give him through elections. If I have to call on this special strength over the coming weeks, I don't want anyone to think that I'm asking for it for the greater glory or convenience of CiU. I prefer for the rules of the game to be clear, neutral and transparent from the beginning.

These elections are not being called to help a person or a political party to stay in power as some have insinuated, they are being called so that the whole of the Catalan people decide democratically, peacefully, civically and harmoniously what their future as a nation will be.

Many thanks."

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