The President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, announced that once the National Pact for the Referendum finishes its work, -with the event scheduled for 19 May-, he will personally make a final formal request to the Spanish government for dialogue and negotiations. He said that his demand would be "flexible" and would, once again, raise the possibility of negotiating with the Spanish authorities as to the date, the question, the majorities and the implementation of the vote’s outcome.
Although Puigdemont did not go into details as to how this final request for dialogue would be made, he declared himself confident that Mariano Rajoy’s government would respond by agreeing to talks. If this failed to happen, Puigdemont warned that the government will proceed with the referendum unilaterally. He therefore considers it "logical" that a government that has pledged to hold a referendum should be working on the preparations without waiting for permission from the state.
Puigdemont pointed out that the validity of the referendum does not depend on receiving permission from tMadrid, but rather "whether the Catalans make it their own". He declared that a negotiated referendum with a 15% turnout wouldn’t be valid, whereas a non-negotiated referendum with a substantial voter turnout would be acceptable. As a result, he called on the Spanish government to be "part of the solution" and not continue to be part of the "problem".
The president spoke at a lunch talk organized by Sobirania i Justícia (Sovereignty and Justice), in an event that comes in a week marked by the fact that the government has put out to tender the purchase of the ballot boxes to be used in the referendum. The move caused the public prosecutor to immediately begin to prepare legal action, which Puigdemont claims has no grounds, since the tender is "identical to one issued by the government of Andalusia” (when they purchased their own ballot boxes).
Puigdemont stated that the government’s plans include "no possibility of regional elections". The president stressed that despite possible bad omens, those in favour of independence "have the majority of things right where they want them". Therefore, while admitting that it appears as if the Spanish government is unlikely to chang its attitude, Puigdemont insisted that Catalonia cannot assume from the outset that there won’t be a negotiated referendum. He aded that it is necessary to make things difficult for the Spanish government, forcing them to make the "intellectual effort" to argue their opposition to allowing the referendum to go ahead.
Still, Puigdemont mentioned his disappointment by the fact that no negotiations "are currently taking place or are on the horizon". He did note, however, that if negotiations were to be held, some secret meetings would be needed, and also some that "went beyond politics".
The date of the referendum to be announced before the summer recess
The President of the Catalan Government stated that "the only way for Madrid to prevent the referendum in September is to hold talks and to agree on an alternative date". As a result, he refused to set the date and the question now, since “it is necessary to wait and find out whether the Spanish government agrees to talks and also out of respect for the work of the National Pact for the Referendum and groups that the pro-independence movement hopes will join them, such as the Comuns". Meanwhile, Puigdemont insisted that the date and the question to be asked in the referendum will both be announced before the summer recess.
When asked as to the likelihood of a unilateral declaration of independence, Puigdemont replied that he considered such talk "untimely" as it does not form part of the Government’s agenda. "In all honesty, we do not contemplate such a scenario and it would be irresponsible to do so. We are operating on the basis of a referendum, one way or another", he declared.
With regard to how to implement the outcome of the independence vote, Puigdemont replied that if the 'no' vote wins, a regional election would be called immediately. However, if the 'yes' vote were to win "it would initiate a period in which it would be necessary to begin negotiations regarding the outcome" and how to manage the transition with Catalonia’s neighbours and the international community. He added that in this case the negotiation process is "inevitable" and Catalonia "would ask a lot of from the international community, and the EU in particular".
PDECat’s future candidate
In other business, Puigdemont also defended the fact that Junts pel Sí and the CUP have put an end to the parliamentary probe into Operation Catalonia, vetoing all of its sittings. According to Puigdemont, they were opposed to the creation of a commission in the first place and, furthermore, the Government has already provided all the explanations that were required.
Puigdemont was once again asked to answer questions as to his future, reiterating that he will not be the his party’s (PDECat) candidate in the next election. Puigdemont underlined the importance of "parties choosing their candidates in the most democratic manner possible", reminding those present that he was not chosen in this way.
"I think PDECat have the opportunity to conduct this debate internally and they deserve to choose their candidate", he added, while pointing out that there are "good people" within the party who have the potential to generate “a new leadership".
Later, Puigdemont went on to explain why he does not wish to stand as a presidential candidate for the Catalan government. The president said that his life was not "directed" towards this goal, and pointed out that being president "involves paying too high a price… To be honest, I could do it for some time, but not four years". Puigdemont went on to say that one of the hardest things about being president is living in Girona and working in Barcelona.