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Home » Content » Is the ‘procés’ for independence over in Catalonia?
Popular mobilisation and political unity, are something else. Impossible to sustain indefinitely over time, although judicial decisions continue to provoke sparks that electrify moments and have a crucial impact on electoral results, in Catalonia and in Spain.

Lola García, 15 January 2023

Deputy Director

Pro-independence supporters during last year’s Diada / Xavier Cervera

“Either we put an end to the procès or the procès will put an end to us”. The confession came from Jordi Sànchez, then leader of the ANC. It was the summer of 2016 and, with this revealing sentence, the pro-independence leader called for the culmination of the path undertaken with a unilateral referendum on independence. Citizen mobilisation was still resounding, tireless. But it had not succeeded in getting the central government to lift a finger. And the parties advocating secession maintained, always with difficulty, a unity that none of them would have dared to break at that time. These are the two factors that sustained what came to be known as “el procés“: an enormous capacity for mobilisation on the street and a communion of action on the part of the parties and the institutions in which they governed. Has that ended, has el procés come to an end?

Jordi Sànchez himself, three months ago, concluded that it was. Although the legislature began with the proclamation that the pro-independence movement had reached 52% of the vote, first the CUP broke away from unity and finally Junts formalised its break with ERC by leaving the government. Thus collapsed one of the two pillars that defined the “procés“. The other, street mobilisation, has been considerably deflated. Of course, Jordi Sànchez was not referring to the end of the road to independence, but to a historic moment (some ten years) in which a large part of the population believed it was possible and within reach. Another Sánchez, the leader of the PSOE, had already inaugurated the stage of “deflation”, but took advantage of his namesake’s phrase to consider the procés dead and buried, thus touching the morale and pride of the pro-independence movement.

The fact that the Moncloa considered next Thurdys’s Spanish-French summit in Barcelona an opportunity to demonstrate that normality prevails in Catalonia and that the pro-Catalonia process has been extinguished, was the springboard for Carles Puigdemont to leap into the limelight to support  a pro-independence demonstration that day in order to demonstrate to Pedro Sánchez and Emmanuel Macron the strength of their cause. A risky manoeuvre (where does the bar for mobilisation now stand after past exploits?), but one that has forced ERC to join in. The Republicans lived with trepidation the demonstration of the last Diada, dominated by Junts and the reproaches to their lukewarmness and in which President Pere Aragonès was absent. They thought that it would be a success, but in the end, according to the Guardia Urbana, 150,000 people turned up. This precedent and the proximity of the elections have been decisive for ERC to lend itself to difficult-to-explain balances on this occasion: Aragonès will play host to Sánchez and Macron, while Oriol Junqueras will second the demonstration. The candidate for Barcelona, Ernest Maragall, is thinking about it.

The ‘procés‘ was defined by the enormous mobilisation on the streets and the political unity of the pro-independence movement.

In any case, the intensity of the pro-independence mobilisation has diminished substantially and, as far as political unity is concerned, it is neither there nor is it expected. It will take time to rebuild the relationship with Junts, if it is ever attempted. The divorce and its sentimental aftermath between Puigdemont and Junqueras could be the subject of several Shakira hits. The only way for ERC to hold on to the Generalitat until the end of the legislature in 2025, or close to that date, is to get the PSC’s support for the budget. This is the definitive rupture of the blocs that have marked Catalan politics over the last decade, which has entered a phase as normal and not very epic as that of the mere electoral struggle. Junts longs for a ruling from the European justice system that will allow it to recover Puigdemont and shake up the chessboard, but in the knowledge that this return will hardly serve to bring independence any closer, but only to take revenge on ERC.

The PSOE and ERC have taken over the controls of the landing in the post-process stage. They have done so out of necessity. Sánchez not only needed ERC’s votes, he also knew that any tenant of the Moncloa will be on the tightrope if instability takes hold of Catalonia as it did in 2017. And the Republicans have sought reparations for all the criminal consequences of the procés to accompany a more pro-independence discourse. The electoral results of the May municipal elections, the state of its competition with Junts, will mark ERC’s future path.

Sánchez presents himself as a guarantee of coexistence in the face of those who seek conflict: pro-independence and right-wingers.

With elections looming, Sánchez will insist on the message that he represents coexistence while others, be they the pro-independence supporters or the right, promote conflict. But the procés is not over in the courts, far from it. Judge Pablo Llarena is requesting Puigdemont’s extradition for aggravated embezzlement, which is punishable by up to twelve years in prison. The reform of the Penal Code was made to ensure that dozens of defendants accused of the procés who are awaiting trial this year do not end up in prison. Sánchez took on the wear and tear in exchange for this peace of mind. Well, if the judges were to apply the type of embezzlement that Llarena has chosen instead of the one modified by the government, the imprisonment of these leaders would complicate the panorama for Sánchez and ERC. Apart from the unknowns about Puigdemont’s future.

The word ‘procés‘ carries an implicit meaning of transience, but also of evolution towards a goal that, in theory, should be reached at some point. As long as there are pro-independence supporters, the procés, for this sector of Catalan society, will remain alive. But the two conditions mentioned, popular mobilisation and political unity, are something else. Impossible to sustain indefinitely over time, although judicial decisions continue to provoke sparks that electrify moments and have a crucial impact on electoral results, in Catalonia and in Spain.



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