The attempt to invest Pere Aragonès as president of the autonomous government of Catalonia (Generalitat) failed for the second time, the Parliament of the Spanish region has until May 26 to reach a solution and prevent new elections. These, if necessary, would take place in July.
Neither of the two majorities in the hemicycle – one independentist, the other on the left – was understood to make a regional executive feasible in the investiture session this Tuesday, the second, after failure last Friday.
Aragonès, the only aspirant to preside over the Generalitat, was proposed by the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC, separatist), which came in second place in the February 14 elections. Its 33 deputies could form a majority favorable to the break with Spain, added to the 32 of Juntos para Catalunya (JxC, dominated by ex-president Carles Puigdemont, escaped in Belgium) and the 9 of the Candidacy for Popular Unity (radical left separatist) .
Result repeats Friday’s
ERC reached a pact with CUP, but not with JxC. In the vote of Friday, March 26, which counted the legal deadline, only these two parties voted in favor of the investiture: 42 deputies out of 135. The JxC abstained and the other formations voted against (61 deputies). If 68 votes (absolute majority) were required in the first session to invest Aragonès, this Tuesday more votes were enough “sim” than “not”.
Aragonès opened the session by stressing that the divergences were “minimal”, but they proved to be wide enough to prevent him from being president, at least for now. He got the same 42 votes on Friday: those of his party and those of the CUP, against 61 votes against and 32 abstentions.
The president of the Catalan Parliament, Laura Borràs, announced after the result that she will open a new round of consultations with the represented parties to study possibilities of taking office of an autonomous government. The deadline continues to run.
“We have the historic opportunity to have all independence committed to the country’s governance,” he had appealed. And he warned: “It would be a mistake for independence to not take advantage of this strength to face a state that accepted to sit at the table”. It refers to the dialogue table accepted by the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), to whose Government the ERC has given support. Another division between the Aragonès party and the JxC is the opening of the ERC to negotiations with Madrid, versus the unilateralism of the Puigdemont formation.
O Puigdemont “Council of the Republic”
ERC and JxC have even ruled Catalonia in alliance, but they have long disputed the leadership of the independence movement and are now divided at the institutional level. If Republicans want to manage the region from their democratic bodies (parliament and autonomous government), those in Puigdemont are committed to officializing the “Council of the Republic” that the latter has proclaimed and which heads from Waterloo, where he has lived for more three years to escape Spanish justice, which sent nine of his allies to jail.
Despite the big name, this entity is a private group without any legal support. If the parties that oppose independence reiterate their legal inexistence, among those who are in favor of secession, the “Council” generates discord over the evident risks of becoming a parallel leader, that is, of having a legitimate Aragonès president in Barcelona and a president Puigdemont parallel on Belgian soil.
The separation between the “Council of the Republic” and the official institutions is not clear. Could Puigdemont’s body (not in the light of the law, but at the will of the separatists) call a referendum without Madrid’s authorization? Will it help to define the sense of vote of independent parliamentarians in the Catalan and Spanish parliaments? Aware of the ambiguity, the ERC candidate was firm in promising to govern “without substitution or tutelage”.
On the part of the JxC, deputy Gemma Geis confirmed that her party would abstain, but guaranteed: “We do not question the candidate or stir up a scarecrow for new elections”. In other words, they want consensus with the ERC, but they have requirements. He assured Aragonès that “no one will impose tutelage on JxC or exile”, but he defended that independence should have “collegial leadership”, which “is never too much”.
“We will honor our responsibility, but flexibility is necessary, because it has 33 deputies and not 68 [maioria absoluta]”, Recalled Geis. He criticized ERC and CUP for having announced a “sterile” agreement, insufficient to govern.
“If we are in a failed debate, it is not our responsibility”, retorted Eulàlia Reguant, from CUP. “It is always more easier to criticize the existing situation than to propose a new one. ” In his view, “there are no sterile agreements when it comes to securing rights.
“New page” in search of a “Catalan Republic that lasts forever”
Aragonès pushed for what unites Catalan nationalists. He spoke of amnesty (of imprisoned and “exiled” politicians) and self-determination, via referendum, as points that unite his program and that of the JxC. He does not want to give up the independentist “process” that collapsed in 2017 – with the referendum against Spanish law, a unilateral declaration of independence that lasted for minutes and the suspension of Catalan autonomy by the central government – and even said that if the Spanish people ask “Turn the page” of separatism, its aim is to “write a new page” for this cause.
However, it wants to do so “associated with democracy, in an alliance between institutions and civil society”. He recognized that it is necessary to involve, as it has not happened for four years, the part of citizenship that does not want to separate itself from Spain.
In contrast to the ethnic discourse of many independenceists (including the head of his party, Oriol Junqueras, one of the politicians arrested for the 2017 secession attempt), Aragonès celebrated his Andalusian origins and rejected any discrimination between Catalans. Everything to create a “Catalan Republic that lasts forever”.
The ERC candidate also recognizes an alternative majority, “unmistakably on the left”. The deputies of the ERC add up to more than half of those of the Party of Catalan Socialists (local branch of the PSOE that won the regional ones with 33 seats) and of Em Commons Pode (ECP, 8). This combination is not on the table today, but it would be a government solution similar to the one that prevailed between 2003 and 2010, before the breakaway crisis.
Socialists and Pode would be willing to explore that path. Salvador Illa, ex-Minister of Health of Spain, spoke for the PSC. In a speech in Spanish and Catalan, he advised Aragonès to forget about secessionism: “One does not go far on the basis of a chimera”. Critic of the nationalist governance of the last ten years, he asks for social progress to “overcome the ten lost years” of the independence process.
Illa questioned the importance that separatists give to having had, for the first time, added, more than 50% of the votes. The election had unprecedented abstention and, in any case, the European Democratic Party Cation (split of the JxC) did not elect deputies. ERC, JxC and CUP represent 48% of those who went to vote.
Jéssica Albiach, leader of the ECP – Catalan version of the PSOE’s allied party in the Spanish Executive – wanted to show Aragonès the intentions of the JxC by insisting on creating the “Council of the Republic”. “Today we talk about humiliation,” he said. “40 days have passed [desde as eleições] and continue to want to agree with JxC, which does not recognize its leadership. ” Your party would prefer a progressive front with Republicans and socialists.
“Lost time”, accuses the anti-independence right
On the right, the anti-independence forces intervened from a position of irrelevance for the viability of a regional government. Ignacio Garriga, from Vox (far right) saw several deputies leave the room to not hear his speech and accused them of “contempt for democracy”. Several of those who remained displayed anti-fascist posters. In his view, separatism makes Catalonia waste time “every other day”.
The Citizens party (liberal center-right), which was once the biggest Catalan political force and is reduced to six deputies, criticizes nationalists for forgetting that they “rule for all”. “They want to impose on us distorted catalanity that ignores the fact that the Castilian language is an inseparable part of catalanity ”, said, as an example, deputy Carlos Carrizosa.
Alejandro Fernández, of the Popular Party (conservative), advised the ERC to “break the umbilical cord with Waterloo”, alluding to Puigdemont and his followers of the JxC. “They humiliated you, Mister Aragonès. They do not accept that I command ”, skeptical the aspiring Republican to the presidency. He also rejected the hypothesis of the left front, accusing the socialist Illa of being a “pyromaniac firefighter”.