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
independence.

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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...