This can very well become a trail of tears for Artur Mas and his posse. I do not say his CiU bloc, nor do I even say his CDC party. I mean the people around Mas who have run Catalonia into this mess. In CiU and CDC there are other people too, very reasonable people.
Here is a video of Mas campaigning in which he says some lucid words. "Only if we walk together", he says, Catalonia can go towards independence. And he does mean only his CiU bloc, clearly not any group of parties that might pursue the same goal. At one point Mas even asks for borrowed votes.
Without saying the word, Artur Mas demands stability in order to guarantee success. He gives two examples: that of Scotland, with a "clear majority" that made moving towards independence possible, and that of Quebec, with "no clear majority", where "the process of Quebec cannot go ahead". "The process", "our process", that's the typical euphemism Mas has been using during the campaign to take the edge off "independence", because he, like everybody else, knew that part of his electorate has problems with independence. On the other hand, this wishy-washy turned real separatists away towards ERC.
So in the end, stability is not what Artur Mas got. Neither for his separatist "process" nor for the normal agenda of any government. ERC has announced it will not formalise a coalition, but support Mas's new government on a deal-by-deal basis from the opposition benches. That will nevertheless be costly for Mas. ERC will demand a significant share of the pie, potentially even in local governments all over Catalonia, where there are still many CiU-PP cooperations in place. Dynamite everywhere.
Let's also not forget that the smaller partner within the CiU bloc, the UDC led by a Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida who was never quite fond of the separatist approach, will be the great antagonist of ERC within CiU. This can blow up CiU itself.
Stability this is not. Yet from this situation of utter instability, ERC has already announced its preferred date for the referendum on independence, September 11, 2013. The word of a single-issue snap election has started to make the round.
Dashing forward to save the day over the identity issue while the whole of Spain is in dire straits is untenable. ERC is certainly radical enough to believe in its own slogans that independence will miraculously solve Catalonia's economic woes in the blink of an eye. But nobody in CiU, not even Mas, believes in a magic wand.
However, for Mas there is also the question of his own political survival. This is a personal emergency over which he might forget his own lucid words, which silently contained also the negative conclusion that if there was not to be stability, his "process" could not go ahead. At some point soon he might have to be stopped.