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The 'think tanks' agree that the separatist challenge will condition the new government of Pedro Sánchez for the refusal of Ciudadanos to support him

Jorge de Lorenzo

07.05.2019 00:00 h.

The Catalan hornets’ nest will continue to cause headaches to the new government of Pedro Sánchez, according to experts from leading international think tanks. “There is no doubt that he will have a difficult role in Catalonia”, the experts warn from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

According to Lyndsey Jefferson, digital editor of the British think tank Chatam House, in favor of Sánchez plays the fact that “his party did quite well in Catalonia”. With the votes of ERC, in addition to those of Podemos, he would effectively get an absolute majority in the Congress. But he would have to pay a high price in the form of concessions to the nationalists, as it is pointed out by experts from the German Foundation Konrad Adenauer.

Vox and the independence of Catalonia

“After the elections on April 28, a new panorama emerges, fragile from the political point of view, with the country reactivated by the dangers of an ultra-nationalist party whose popularity was initially driven by Catalonia’s desire for independence, although its hardened opinions hardened gradually spread to other areas such as immigration and social problems”, diagnose Heather A. Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic and director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC and Donatienne Ruy, associate researcher of the CSIS Europe Program.

The two North American analysts highlight how Ciudadanos has categorically refused any post-election cooperation with the PSOE due to the orange party’s stated desire to become the center-right leader to displace Pablo Casado’s PP. “Rivera’s commitment not to ally with the PSOE means that Ciudadanos will remain in the opposition and, therefore, must continue to surpass Vox and the PP in their extreme positions in Catalonia to maintain political relevance. There is no doubt that Sanchez will face a difficult role”.

The poor management of PP

For the two North American analysts, the victory of the PSOE represents a natural change of the political pendulum after a long period of PP government, which is generally recognized for its corruption and mismanagement of the independence movement in Catalonia, CSIS analysts point out. With a population fatigued by austerity, the fact that the center-left has had a good result is at the same time a testimony of the political support of the bases to Sánchez and the decline of Podemos. “In other words, there is still a viable center-left. This is not the case in other European countries, such as France or Poland”.

These experts predict from Washington that Spain will continue to be fragile from the political point of view, “since it recognizes the return of a poisonous nationalism, an alarming demographic decline in several rural areas of the country and a difficult immigration situation”. “It’s easy to forget that Spain’s return to democracy is quite recent (four decades) and should not be taken for granted”, warn Heather A. Conley and Donatienne Ruy in a somewhat arrogant tone.

Tensions with the separatists

For Lyndsey Jefferson, digital editor of the British think tank Chatam House, tensions with the Catalan separatists led Pedro Sánchez to call elections after the budgets were not approved at the beginning of this year.

“One of the important results of the elections was the reordering of forces within Catalonia. We are witnessing the victory of the center-left regionalist party that replaced the center-right regionalist party as the main force of Catalan separatism. This could open the door for them to support a center-left coalition government in Madrid, but they will pay a high price to obtain more constitutional rights for Catalonia”, according to Lyndsey Jefferson.

According to this analyst, in favor of Sánchez plays that “his party did quite well in Catalonia. That may be a way of forcing other Catalan center-left parties to support his government, but that is difficult to predict now”.

The forgiveness to Oriol Junqueras

With the votes of ERC, added to those of Podemos, the PSOE would effectively have an absolute majority in Congress. But it would have to pay a high price in the form of concessions to the nationalists. “For example, for the release or pardon of Oriol Junqueras, the president of ERC, who was accused as former vice-president of Catalonia for the illegal plebiscite of 2017 and the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (DUI) and is in prison”, as experts from the German Foundation Konrad Adenauer highlight.

The German think tank emphasizes how “the Spaniards have also denied with their vote to respond to nationalism and separatism in Catalonia with severity and with a restriction of autonomy”. It emphasizes that the dialogue that Pedro Sanchez has promised, as a political response to separatism, is obviously supported by a majority of Spaniards.

The intervention of autonomy

The Konrad Adenauer emphasizes that the nationalist parties in Catalonia and the Basque Country were able to mobilize additional voters with the warning against Vox and the intervention in regional autonomy threatened by the Popular Party and Citizens. “In the end, the left and the nationalist parties have benefited much more from the mobilization of additional voters. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, each of them has significantly increased their percentage of votes”.

It also interprets that the attitude towards the separatists in Catalonia by Citizens “was unsuccessful” in the election results. Ciudadanos won 25.4% in the regional elections of December 2017 and now has only 11.55% of the votes, although its popular regional spokesperson, Inés Arrimadas, winner of the 2017 elections [regional], will head the electoral list [for the general elections] in Catalonia.



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