Artur Mas: The safe pair of hands who became radical leader of a revolution


With a reputation for being a hardheaded, canny, political
calculator, at first glance Artur Mas has always seemed an unlikely
figure to lead Catalonia on what has - after yesterday's elections
- become an increasingly uncertain path towards possible

A 56-year-old former economics and law student from a well-to-do middle-class Barcelona family, up until this summer Mas was considered a safe, if somewhat uncharismatic, technocrat within the equally unspectacular, if reliable, CiU conservative Catalan nationalist party.

As a member of the Catalan parliament since 1995 following a spell in the Catalan Trade Ministry, Mas was named successor to longstanding CiU leader Jordi Pujol in 2001 and spent much of the CiU's seven years in opposition until they returned to governing Catalonia in 2010 building his power base and consolidating an image that was anything but radical.

Married, a regular churchgoer and father of three, to Madrid and Mariano Rajoy's Partido Popular (PP) party Mas and CiU seemed to represent the "safe" side of Catalan nationalism, to the point where they often allied with the PP both at national and regional level. Personally, Mas is reputedly so conservative that there are unconfirmed media reports that for the last 40 years for every summer holiday, he and his family invariably stay at the same Balearics hotel. And when they moved house, it was to another flat in the same Barcelona apartment block.

However, in Mas's recent political life there have been some drastic changes. After decades of finely calculated ambiguity on the independence issue - the word does not appear directly in their electoral campaigns - as the pro-separatist movement mushroomed, CiU and Mas opted both to bring the Catalan regional elections forward by two years and adopt an unexpectedly much harder pro-nationalist line, with Mas converted into the spearhead of the separatist bid.

If CiU's sudden conversion to outright nationalism was unexpected, the populist makeover for Mas, previously heavily criticised for masterminding one of the most intense programmes of austerity cuts in any of Spain's 17 regions and at one point so unpopular he once had to be flown into parliament by helicopter to avoid anti-cuts protesters, was even more surprising. Some analysts argued it was even a little kitschy, pointing to CiU's principal campaign poster in which Mas appeared to take the stance of an Old Testament prophet on the point of saving his people, his arms stretched aloft against a glowing backdrop of senyeras (Catalan flags).

Either way it was a risky political move, but aided by his unquestioned gifts for public speaking, Mas seems to have successfully made the switch from relative obscurity to the high-profile head of the independentista movement. Where this will now leave him following Sunday night's setback for his party and the referendum remains to be seen.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine