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Catalan Republicans to Form Minority Government

Talks with the rival Together for Catalonia remain stalled after three months.

Pere Aragonès
Acting Catalan president Pere Aragonès gives a speech in Barcelona, Spain, December 14, 2020 (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya)

Catalonia’s leading independence party has announced plans to form a minority government after almost three months of fruitless coalition talks.

Negotiations between the Republican Left, led by Acting President Pere Aragonès, and the formerly center-right Together for Catalonia (Junts), which now presents itself as a big tent, have stalled.

Time is running out for the separatists, who together hold 74 of the 135 seats in the regional parliament. If a new president isn’t inaugurated by May 26, snap elections would automatically be called.

Dispute

The dispute centers on the role of former president and Junts party leader Carles Puigdemont, who has lived in Belgium since Catalonia’s failed breakaway from Spain in 2017 to escape arrest. Junts insists his government-in-exile, the Council for the Republic, should oversee the independence process. The Republican Left and far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), the third and smallest separatist party, disagree.

The Republicans want to give talks with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez a chance. They often vote with the social democrat in the national Congress, and he has promised negotiations on self-government in return.

Proposals include giving the Catalans tax autonomy similar to the Basques, more competencies in labor law, maritime rescue and scholarships, and an amnesty for the independence leaders who were imprisoned for organizing the controversial referendum in 2017.

Junts has less hope of a deal with Sánchez and believes the outcome of the 2017 referendum must be respected, even though it was boycotted by unionists. 92 percent voted to leave Spain, but only 43 percent of eligible voters turned out. Polls suggest Catalans are evenly split on independence.

Power struggle

The inability to form a regional government is also due to a power struggle in the independence camp.

The Republicans for the first time since the restoration of democracy in Catalonia won more votes than the center-right in February. Junts, which is the successor to the long-ruling Democratic Convergence of Catalonia, has yet to come to terms with its secondary role.

By raising the possibility of a minority government, the Republicans may be hoping to break the deadlock. If Junts made life difficult for such a government, it could lose more voters to the center-left. But supporting it from the outside would give it less influence than joining it.

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