In this interview, President Mas’ right-hand man in all affairs related to the independence process, the Minister of the Presidency, Francesc Homs, explains why it was necessary to ask for unity among all the pro-independence institutions in the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia on 27 September. Homs also warns of the risk of the elections no longer being considered a plebiscite if ERC and the CUP allow themselves to be influenced by Podemos. In his office in the Palau de la Generalitat, the Minister discusses the split with Unió, which had been anticipated for many months. Finally, he sends a message of assurance and confidence about the future of the independence process.

—What a fuss you’ve caused by involving the pro-independence institutions in the preparation of a list for the elections of 27 September… Was it necessary to do that now?

—I sincerely believe that it was. I don’t think that trying to provide a response to what many, many people think and express – more privately than in public – is a fuss. Asking ourselves about whether we are doing as much as we need to in favour of unity and to make the elections of the 27 September the plebiscite that we want them to be can’t be a fuss.

—You place a great deal of emphasis on the plebiscite aspect. Those opposed to it don’t recognize it, we know that. But are you saying that because you think ERC and CUP aren’t helping to reinforce that aspect of the elections of 27 September?

—Right now, the person who’s most engaged with the plebiscite dynamic is the person who’s called these elections – Mr Mas. Paradoxically, on the no side, there are the People’s Party and Ciutadans. Our problem is the others. I’m not saying they should come out in favour of the idea of the plebiscite, because ERC and CUP are doing that, but there are some people who have another agenda for the elections of 27 September. By which I mean ICV, Podemos, the PSC, and Procés Constituent… [left-wing parties]. We’ve noticed that they are dragging ERC behind them. I think that’s quite obvious. And I’ll say it again: formally, Esquerra says it believes that the elections of 27 September are a plebiscite. But with their reading of things, their approach helps to create another agenda [an agenda with a left-right theme]. Furthermore, this agenda is being presented as being contradictory to the pro-independence agenda. That’s a mistake.

—Had the split in CiU been planned for some time, or should we conclude that it happened spontaneously?

—What do you think? [Laughs.] It was a rhetorical question. There are some things in life that are the result of being consistent. When we agreed on the question for the 9 November referendum – on 12 December 2013 – which provided for the possibility of advocating an independent state and that CDC would advocate a yes-yes vote [for independence], Unió said it had no clear answer. We had already approved it at our congress in 2012. And they wanted to think about it and take their time to decide. At that time we said to them: there are some things in politics that are not compatible. ‘All right, all right, but we’ll make our decision later,” they told us. We allowed them to take their time. But we’ve known for many months that if they didn’t advocate the yes-yes vote, then we wouldn’t stand for the elections together and CiU would come to an end.

ERC says it believes that the elections of 27 September are a plebiscite. But with their reading of things, their approach helps to create another agenda, that is being presented as being contradictory to the pro-independence agenda. That’s a mistake.

—Will you be able to run a campaign without constant criticisms and attacks of ERC and CUP?

—I won’t be hypocritical. If we’re competing for the same electorate, we’d be lying if we suggested that we won’t argue. When some of us have argued strongly that we had to do things differently because exceptional times call for exceptional measures, we weren’t saying that for the sake of it. We don’t need to hypocritically say that we won’t argue when we’re competing for the same voters. There’ll be arguments. Quite rightly, some people will think that their arguments are better than those of others. That’s the result of having brought things to the conclusion we wanted. What’s more, that big idea of ‘we’re worth more separately’ has collapsed. There’s no poll that backs that up.

—ERC and CUP are certain that it’s better to stand separately.

—There’s still time to reconsider. I’m not talking about parties. Those people that are only interested in independence would never forgive us for not putting the proposal we have made on the table. When they participated in the large demonstrations that have taken place, people didn’t ask whether they put the right or left foot forward, or whether it was about any specific ideology. They simply did it in favour of independence. Now, instead of one of those exciting campaigns about independence, we’re fighting each other. If that hasn’t been done in the right way, it’s not for me to be hypocritical. The idea of concealing what happens tomorrow distances people from politics.

—Once again, the opinion polls are saying that the Mas candidature will lose quite a few of the 50 deputies it currently has. Why does CDC lose seats every time there’s a vote? Is it the perception of corruption? The cuts? A social shift to the left?

—There has been a very considerable change in the political map. But not in Catalonia, but instead in all the countries of the northern Mediterranean. We are in the midst of a devastating crisis. In Catalonia we are fortunate that the independence movement has mobilized positively. Because we know that we can overcome it, but we are lacking resources. With independence as a tool, we know that we can do better to solve it. There is no government, left or right, which has not suffered. But our problem is not what happens to Convergència. I’ll say something that will make some people laugh, no doubt, but we believe we are living in historic times. And Convergència is an instrument at the service of those historic times. It’s an instrument which may prove to be dispensable if the historic moment works out in a positive way. That’s what’s at stake. Not which party governs. I’ve had the experience of being in opposition. And these days being in opposition ends up making you stronger.

—What about independence – will we achieve it?

—I think so. I remember the feeling I had in mid-October 2014. There was widespread uncertainty, terrible arguments between the parties, scepticism about whether the ballot boxes would come out on 9 November… I said to everyone who asked me: ‘The ballot boxes will come out.’ I saw overwhelming scepticism. Now I can say it because it’s in the past. At that time I kept quiet because I wanted to encourage people. There was a lot of scepticism. And the ballot boxes certainly did come out. I remember that someone – mentioning no names – even said at one point in those days prior to 9 November that we shouldn’t bring out the ballot boxes because no more than half a million people would vote. We brought out the ballot boxes and the greatest thing is that more than two million people voted. And that’s what the people did. That hasn’t gone away. And it’s very powerful. It’s the movement that has the most power. Neither shifts to the left, nor shifts to the right, nor anything else. The most powerful thing in Catalonia is what happened in Catalonia on 9 November. And that hasn’t disappeared since 9 November. Those people haven’t died, they still exist, and the elections of 27 September will once again show that there are many of them out there. So yes, I think it’ll happen.

Pere Cardús i Cardellach

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