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Waiting for a Deal in Catalonia

Separatist parties have yet to form a new government.

Barcelona Spain
Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor on Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Jorien van der Sluis)

Two months after they expanded their majority in the regional parliament, Catalonia’s pro-independence parties have yet to form a new government.

The separatists for the first time won more than 50 percent of the votes in the election in February. The formerly center-right Together for Catalonia (Junts), which now presents itself as a big tent, lost two seats. But the Republican Left and far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) gained six, giving the three parties, which have governed Catalonia since 2015, a comfortable majority of 74 out of 135 seats.

The Republican Left and CUP quickly did a deal, which would pull the anticapitalists into government for the first time. (They previously supported minority governments of Junts and the Republican Left.)

An agreement with Junts has proved elusive.

Power struggle

The delay is due to both a power struggle and a dispute over how to achieve independence from Spain.

Junts, which governed Catalonia in one form or another for 34 of the 44 years since the restoration of democracy, insists on a role for the self-proclaimed government-in-exile of former president Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont was deposed by Spain after the banned 2017 independence referendum. He has lived in Belgium since. Other members of his government were imprisoned, including his vice president, and the Republican Left party leader, Oriol Junqueras.

Puigdemont and his supporters consider the 2017 vote a mandate to break away from Spain, even though opponents of independence boycotted it.

The Republican Left, previously the more radical of the two, wants to give Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez a chance to revise Catalonia’s autonomy within Spain.

Proposals include giving the Catalans tax autonomy similar to the Basques, completing the transfer of competencies promised in the current self-government statute, which came into force in 2006, and an amnesty for Junqueras and the other political prisoners.

Repudiation

The Republicans worry — not unreasonably — that the hard line proposed by Junts would make it impossible for Sánchez, who leads a minority left-wing government, to make concessions. Half of Spanish voters outside Catalonia believe the region has too much autonomy, not too little.

Junts considers the Republican line a repudiation of the 2017 referendum.

Interestingly, the CUP, which didn’t think a referendum was necessary before declaring independence, has sided with the Republicans on the issue.

4 comments

  1. They are waiting for the results in the Madrid region election. If right wins, it will be needed one certain strategy, if right loses, then another quite different. There are a lot of (bad) theatrics, because all important was decided far ago. On the other hand, the judiciary battle can spiral out of control, it is not expected PP comes to terms to negociate renewal of judiciary, whatever happens, even less motivations if things go worse for them. Things are very unstable, and knowing the country (I mean Spain), the easier way is they go breaking apart. Only think about the havoc if, whatever the reason, Sánchez was wasted. PP is in the verge of breaking apart which is ironic since it’s trying to absorb C’s, but PSOE is not in a better position and they think they truly are.

  2. I see the judicial element; in fact, I’m writing a story about that right now, so stay tuned!

    But I don’t see how the Madrid regional election should factor into Catalan parties’ calculation. Can you elaborate?

  3. If Ayuso wins, it will be a disaster for Casado. Ayuso is all what Casado is trying to distance from (too late, but es lo que hay), and all PP will sink in stronger tensions, think about Bonilla (Feijoo in fact was using Ayuso to undermine Casado, both he and her are very much from the same extraction in despite of their completely different public projections, they both are very dangerous and reckless, worse Feijoo since he calculates far much better and he is coward enough). The PP will double down against Sánchez will all weapons, and Sánchez won’t make any concessions to Catalans (he has made not a single one until now), it means, the PP will try to torpedo the government and they will have a chance. On the contrary, if Ayuso lose, it won’t be that disastrous, since it will be Ayuso stance what will be questioned, and Sánchez will have more room, we must cross our fingers because his astrologer (Redondo) is another brilliant being. In the first case, the Catalan strategy will have to be “against Spain (more or less like a whole)”, in the second one “against the right wing”, leaving more room for constructive strategies. Since the first strategy is harder to manage and can easily spiral out of control (as it did), I think they are doing what it is needed, I mean, to keep in a short leash any of the two outcomes.

    Of course, a blunt slap from the ECHR would be of enormous help to get everything back to normal (or the closer possible), two birds with one stone, the shameful rotten judiciary and the Catalan explosive trouble. All this has been delivered by the fantastically corrupt PP. You can be incompetent, and you can be corrupt to the bone, but to be both at the same time it is a warrant of catastrophe.

    It has been deliberately forgotten that Rajoy was ousted TWO times from a government (the only case in Spanish history), he was expelled also by a vote of no confidence from the Xunta de Galicia years ago, when he was vicepresident under Albor, a guy not very smart to put it mildly. Half of his own party (regional branch, the same of Feijoo’s) simply give him the boot prefering to put socialist Laxe in their place, so inept he was and creating far more problems than the available ones. It says a lot about Spanish right (the left, another day). The guy disappeared for a time, then Aznar rescued him and I suppose you know the rest of the story. And his Prestige management.

    Put an eye on Romay Beccaría and you will be able to link a lot of loose ends.

  4. Thanks for explaining! It makes some sense to me: if the PP loses yet another election while lurching to the right, it could give Sánchez a little more breathing room to restart negotiations with the Catalans and make concessions.

    I’m very skeptical, though, that — no matter the outcome in Madrid — the PP will change its tune on Catalonia. The outcome of the election in Madrid may affect future right-wing deals with Vox or the PP’s willingness to support Sánchez’ recovery plans, but I suspect/fear even a “moderate” PP will still be unreasonable on the Catalan issue, and they will sharply criticize any step Sánchez takes toward negotiation.

    As for Rajoy, I blame him for a lot of this. See “A Failure of Leadership in Spain“.

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