April 21, 2024

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Home » Content » Catalonia, in ‘stand by’ because of the coronavirus
The pandemic alters the Catalan political agenda and blurs the horizon of the legislature

Júlia Regué / Xabi Barrena / Fidel Masreal
Barcelona – Monday, 04/13/2020 – 14:06

With the pandemic still on the rise, it seems difficult to think, not even as an escape route, of tomorrow’s world. But it is as true that it will come as the disruptive nature of the health crisis makes it almost impossible to bet on a specific development of future events. The only thing that is known for sure are the points from where these events will take shape. This text compiles six of those ‘zero moments’ related to Catalan politics.

What the six ‘zero moments’, which on the other hand are interrelated like branches of a vine, have in common is that the return to activity will take place when society has not yet just digested the bad drink of the pandemic. The new sensitivities that the coronavirus may have created in society will have, in just a few months, a first opportunity to become visible: the elections to the Parliament.

The management of the crisis carried out by each government and, within them, by each party, will join the rest of the usual political ingredients, from the State-Generalidad negotiating board to the organization of the post-convergent space. If Catalan politics, with the ‘procés’, subscribed to instability, the post-coronavirus world adds all the suspense of unpredictability.

The budgets

The Govern and the ‘Comuns’ conspire to approve the budgets that were agreed in a plenary session that is expected to be held this last fortnight of April. The Consell de Garanties Estatutàries (CGE), the advisory body to which Cs went to analyze whether the accounts comply with current legislation, issued its opinion 12 days before the end of the term and unanimously gave the accounts a free pass.

A period of amendments to the accounts is open until Tuesday afternoon and the Board of Spokespersons must set the date of their approval in plenary. This advisory body of the Generalidad has yet to pronounce on the budget support law, which includes fiscal and financial measures and which they will try to endorse “jointly” in the same plenary session.

The oranges (Cs) consider that the budget project is obsolete due to the coronavirus crisis, but JxCat, ERC and ‘Comuns’ prefer to agree on extraordinary items on the bases established for 2020, which foresee increases in Health and Education compared to those of 2017, and not “waste five or six months renegotiating”.

The elections

As soon as the budgets are approved, Torra will announce when the elections will be. Which already will necessarily be after the summer. The instruction in the Govern and in the parties is to affirm that now the priority is the fight against the coronavirus. Only the ‘counselor’ of Territory, Damià Calvet, in an interview with EL PERIÓDICO, gave voice to the idea of ​​postponing the appointment with the ballot box for several months, without specifying a date. Calvet affirms that this was already the plan he had in mind before the arrival of the pandemic.

The republicans, seeing the degree of tension in the Executive, were betting on an appointment with the polls before the summer. The delay of the elections will give time to the post-convergent space and to the ‘expresident’ Puigdemont to organize themselves, and to the Government as a whole to defend its management in the health crisis and, perhaps, try to put the ‘procés’ back on the frontispiece of the political debate with the argument that independence would have given more tools to defeat the pandemic with agility and proximity. All this without counting the alteration that Torra’s definitive disqualification would cause.

Torra’s disqualification

The state of alarm has paralysed all judicial activity not included in essential services. The trial against the Mossos leadership during 1-O has been suspended, just as the trial of the previous Board of Parliament in the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia has been postponed.
The disqualification of the ‘president’ Quim Torra, who may mark the end of the legislature, has also been frozen. The Supreme Court was to rule on the admissibility of the appeal of the head of the Government against the conviction for disqualification of the TSJC. What usually takes a couple of months will now be added for the duration of the alarm state.

If the court ignores the prosecutor, who is in favor of rejecting the appeal, and orders the procedure, its resolution will take between six and eight months, reports Ángeles Vázquez. As soon as the final decision occurs, and if there is no candidate that adds 68 seats of support, and it does not appear, there would be elections two months later.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court has not yet sent a request to Congress to cite to declare the spokesperson for JxCat, Laura Borràs, as accused.

The dialogue board

One of the strengths that ERC boasted, when the agreement for the investiture of Pedro Sánchez, was to have made both governments sit as equals to negotiate. The coronavirus has also dynamited that fiction of equality. With the state of alarm, the central executive has established a hierarchy with respect to Catalan, assuming some of the powers. The ones it has specified the need for and for the time it requires. The tension and criticism between the two trenches, derived from this push and pull of competition, have been notorious.

For now, the dialogue board has been suspended and, now, for its reactivation, the bridges must be rebuilt again. And not everyone seems ready for new reconciliation exercises. And the fact is that JxCat will attack the chances of success of this negotiation designed by ERC.
The criticism will consist of affirming that Catalonia is already prepared for another referendum and that it is evident that the State will not allow it, which is why the board is a framework for guardianship when “we are no longer in the logic of submission but of empowerment” and with the crisis has become more evident, according to this vision.

Parliamentary activity

The restrictive measures forced parliamentary activity to be minimized and opened the debate on an express reform of the regulation to adapt politics to the virtual sphere. The lawyers argued that the regulations do not contemplate online plenary sessions, so they recommended modifying some articles to enable this option and that the Parliament not be relegated to a purely administrative unit. JxCat forced in 2018 a drafting committee that has remained active so that the reform includes the possibility of investing remotely the former president Carles Puigdemont, which will host the debate on changes to the regulation by electronic means.

Cs, PSC and PPC fear that the post-convergents will use this drafting committee in their favor, reason why they opt for holding face-to-face plenary sessions limited to 21 MPs with a delegated vote representing the rest of their group. This option also pleases the ‘Comuns’, because they do not consider it a priority to open a path that may not be resolved before overcoming the crisis due to the virus.

ERC, for its part, has prepared its own proposal that includes reduced plenary sessions until the regulation is reformed and that limits the use of the electronic means “in cases of force majeure”, that is, in cases that “objectively hinder the exercise of the rights of all the MPs”. They give as an example natural disasters, health crises, serious episodes of contamination or the paralysis of essential public services. In any case, the Board should agree by a simple majority on its suitability. Republicans have opened talks with JxCat to agree on their plan, which could also be joined by the CUP.

On the other hand, the validation of seven decrees is pending, the majority related to the covid-19, which is expected to be endorsed in the same plenary session in which the accounts for 2020 are debated. At that appointment, the ‘president’ must also appear to formally pronounce himself on the relay in the department of Exteriors, now under the leadership of  Bernat Solé.

The pardons to the prisoners of the ‘procés’

The Government resumed on March 21 all the procedures for requesting and granting pardons despite having been suspended with the application of the state of alarm. The Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, asked the opposition not to see “ghosts” where there are none in relation to the granting of possible pardons to prisoners of the “procés” and assured that “applications have not even been registered” in this direction.

Before the pandemic, the UGT union was finalizing the presentation of a pardon for the “ex-counselor” Dolors Bassa, and CCOO opened up to support the process. We can bet on this route as a way to tackle the Catalan conflict, so the approach of pardons can set the coalition government on fire. At the moment there are no requests on the table. The ‘former vice president’ Oriol Junqueras, the ‘former councilor’ Raül Romeva and the president of Òmnium, Jordi Cuixart, have publicly disdained them. “The pardon,  they could put it where best fit them“, Junqueras said. The only way for them is amnesty.

The rearrangement of the parties

The undated elections have already shaken the political table and activated the reordering of various parties. In the post-convergent space there are two theses: one that affirms that there is a principle of agreement between the PDECat and Puigdemont; and another, that the health, social and economic crisis will give wings to the ‘former president’ to demand a “country” candidacy around his figure to face exceptional times. Officially, according to post-convergents, negotiations have not advanced since the covid-19 outbreak.

On the other hand, Catalanism continues to seek union. Lliga Democràtica y Lliures  were forced to postpone a conclave that they have been holding since January to officiate their merger and attend a Catalan election together. “The uncertainty about the political moment and the difficulty of meeting together has also paralyzed the search for new alliances”, sources from this space point out.

During the confinement, they will take advantage to design the electoral program and look for formulas to achieve a territorial implantation that allows them to be present in the four Catalan provinces. There has been no progress either in Units per Avançar or in Poblet’s group due to confinement.



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