May 23. 2024. 7:41

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Fears of deadlock in ‘ungovernable’ Catalonia after regional vote


The results of Catalonia’s Sunday election, won by Salvador Illa from the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) without a sufficient majority to govern alone, have left a complex situation in which the cross vetoes of the separatist parties make an agreement guaranteeing the stability of a future executive almost impossible, meaning a repeat of the vote could be on the cards.

“Catalans have decided it is up to the PSC to lead this new stage. I announce that I take this responsibility and that, as soon as the new parliament is constituted, I will express my will to present my candidacy to preside over the regional executive of Catalonia,” Illa said in the early hours of Monday morning after learning of his victory, Euractiv’s partner EFE reported.

Although he won 42 seats in the 135-member regional parliament, he fell well short of an absolute majority of 68, making it difficult for Illa to form a stable government.

While complex negotiations lie ahead, Illa has achieved his goal of seeing Catalan separatist forces lose their four-decade hegemony in the regional parliament.

“We were right,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (PSOE/S&D) at the start of a party meeting in Madrid on Monday, referring to his decision to push through a controversial amnesty law that he believes has served to weaken separatist forces, El País reported.

Referring to the amnesty law and several previous pardons, the Spanish prime minister highlighted the “healing effect of pardons” for hundreds of people involved in Catalonia’s serious secession attempt in 2017 and other illegal separatist acts committed between 2012 and 2023.

Among the possible options for forming a new government, the formation of a left-wing executive with the separatist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Comunes, the Catalan branch of the progressive Sumar platform, a junior partner in Sánchez’s government, was discussed on Monday.

The ERC party, led by the outgoing president of the regional government, Pere Aragonès, holds the main key to forming this hypothetical “left-wing tripartite”.

With the ERC having lost 13 seats compared to the 2021 regional elections, Aragonès announced on Monday that he is retiring from politics and that the ERC will go into opposition. He explained that he had taken this decision out of “responsibility and honesty.”

A complex political Rubik’s Cube

“Opposition is opposition (…) we will not be there to facilitate an investiture of the PSC, and we will not participate in operations that require the agreement of JxCat and PSC,” warned Aragonès, as reported by EFE.

“It is up to the PSC and JxCat to manage the new stage,” he added.

According to an analysis by Spanish public radio RNE, ERC now faces the difficult choice of supporting the PSC – which is not pro-independence – and being labelled as a “traitor to independence” by its separatist supporters or shaking hands with the rival right-wing separatist party JxCat, led by former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

According to analysts quoted by EFE, the situation is extremely complicated. The ballot boxes have left a deadlocked situation with several cross vetoes between the different parties in a kind of “political Rubik’s cube” that is almost impossible to combine, as the Spanish public broadcaster RTVE described.

From a theoretical point of view, another possible alternative to reaching the 68 seats of an absolute majority would be an amalgam of the separatist forces between JxCat, ERC, and the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), a left-wing separatist formation that won four seats on Sunday’s elections.

It would also be theoretically possible for Illa to seek the support of JxCat, whose 35 seats, added to the PSC’s 42, would allow him to be sworn in with an absolute majority. But this is an unlikely scenario.

It is also unlikely that Illa could be installed with the support of the Partido Popular (PP), the leading opposition force in Madrid, which gained 15 seats in Sunday’s elections, a significant increase over 2021, and the far-right VOX party, the third force in the Spanish parliament, which won 11 seats.

Puigdemont gives Sánchez an ultimatum

Although he failed to achieve his ultimate goal of victory, Puigdemont announced on Monday that he’ll try to form a 100% separatist government.

After several years of self-exile in Waterloo, near Brussels, where he fled in 2017, and now from his new self-exile in southern France, from where he intends to return to Spain thanks to the imminent approval – perhaps this month – of the amnesty law, Puigdemont assured: “We are in a position to build a solid government of Catalan obedience and avoid (new) elections.”

JxCat’s valuable seven seats in the Spanish parliament and the agreement signed between Puigdemont and Sánchez in November 2023 have ensured the stability of the Spanish prime minister’s executive, but it is a fragile balance that could collapse.

On Monday, Puigdemont issued a stern warning to Sánchez, saying he was not “threatening” to bring down his government but only in the event of a government being formed in Catalonia between the ERC, JxCat, the CUP and perhaps the separatist far-right Alianza Catalana, in which he himself could become president again.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.Euractiv.es)

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