Analysis

Catalan Separatist Parties Go Separate Ways

Together for Catalonia looks for confrontation with Madrid. The Republican Left is working with the government.

Pere Aragonès
Acting Catalan president Pere Aragonès gives a speech in Barcelona, December 14 (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya)

Catalonia’s ruling separatist parties are drifting apart.

José Antich writes in the pro-independence outlet El Nacional that the top candidates of Together for Catalonia, the senior party in the regional government, are “supporters of a path of greater confrontation with Madrid.”

The list of the Republican Left, by contrast — currently the smaller party, but the largest in the polls — is led by office holders, including Acting President Pere Aragonès and Health Minister Alba Vergés.

Role reversal

The candidacies mark a role reversal for the two parties.

Together for Catalonia is a successor to the center-right Democratic Convergence of Catalonia, which governed the region almost uninterrupted since the return to democracy in 1980. It negotiated Catalan home rule.

The Republican Left traces its origins to before the Civil War. It has historically argued for independence from, rather than self-government within, Spain.

But the republicans, who are center-left, now support the national government of Pedro Sánchez, a Socialist, who has lifted spending controls imposed on Catalonia by his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, and promised to renegotiate its autonomy.

Radicalized

Rajoy’s refusal to negotiate radicalized the Catalan center-right.

The last Democratic Convergence leader, Artur Mas, was forced out after presiding over a non-binding independence referendum in 2014.

His successor, Carles Puigdemont, created Together for Catalonia but fled Spain after presiding over an outlawed referendum that was meant to be binding in 2017. He, and other members of the Catalan regional government, were deposed and prosecuted. Seven are in prison. Puigdemont lives in Belgium.

Puigdemont’s successor, Quim Torra, was forced out by Spanish authorities for refusing to remove a banner calling for the release of the prisoners from his residence in Barcelona.

Torra’s resignation triggered early elections, which are due in February.

Polls

Polls suggest Together for Catalonia and the Republican Left will again receive half the votes between them.

The same share of Catalans wants independence.

A continuation of the separatist coalition, but led by the Republican Left, is possible. But so is a left-wing alliance of the Socialists, Catalonia in Common and far-left Podemos (We Can), which would mirror the national coalition.

The united left last governed Catalonia between 2003 and 2010.

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