Puigemont’s Bid for Relevance Divides Catalan Independence Parties

The deposed regional president is refusing to go away, much to the chagrin of his ally, the Republican Left.

Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017
Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s bid for continued political relevance is dividing the two largest independence parties in the region.

  • The Republican Left is refusing to join Puigdemont’s latest political vehicle, the National Call for the Republic, which is meant to succeed the electoral list he led into last year’s regional election, Together for Catalonia.
  • The Republican Left also argues that both parties must respect a Supreme Court ruling and suspend from parliament those six lawmakers who are awaiting trial for their role in last year’s independence referendum. Together for Catalonia argues that Puigdemont doesn’t have to give up his seat, because — unlike the leader of the Republican Left, Oriol Junqueras — he is still a free man.

Left-wing hopes

The parties ended their alliance, Together for Yes, last year, when the Republican Left topped Puigdemont’s center-right Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) in the polls.

Puigdemont proceeded to form a big-tent pro-independence list, Together for Catalonia, which ran instead of the PDeCAT and narrowly beat the Republican Left into third place with 21.7 to 21.4 percent support.

The anti-independence Citizens came first with 25.4 percent, but the combined separatist camp was still able to outvote the unionists.

With Puigdemont in self-imposed exile, the separatists elected Quim Torra as regional president, a lawyer with no affiliation to either party.

Recent polls again put the Republican Left in first place with 20 to 25 percent support against 16-20 percent for Together for Catalonia. Support for the other parties is virtually unchanged.