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.
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.
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.