Isabel Garcia Pagan, 11 December 2021
A Palau usher with the senyera and Spanish flags on the day of the dialogue table
From autonomism to heaven
Pere Aragonès maintains that his government does not want a reform of the Spanish Constitution, that what it wants is “a Catalan Constitution and to successfully complete the process towards independence”. The reform is today a declaration of socialist intentions that does not even withstand a party in Congress, and the hypothetical Catalan norm, a chimera, which, not even with the procés on the rise, the pro-independence movement was capable of drawing a consensus. Judge Santi Vidal’s 2014 draft mutated into Lluís Llach’s diluted pre-constituent debate in 2018… and back to the management of self-government, now with a linguistic conflict simmering faster than expected.
Pedro Sánchez turned the story of a plurinational Spain into a winning card to regain the throne of Ferraz and later reach the Moncloa, but he has stopped proposing in public a federal constitutional reform. In the PSOE, plurinationality has been replaced by a “modern multilevel” Spain in which “federal culture” and the deepening of self-government with mechanisms of “co-governance” take precedence.
Constitutional reform was the offer that was conveyed from the Moncloa to the interlocutors of Carles Puigdemont, Quim Torra and, later, ERC, although always asking for “time”. The numbers do not add up. The PP did not vote for the current Constitution and does not want to vote for another, and Vox defends the annihilation of the autonomous regions, even though it is there that it now enjoys the capacity to intervene. So the Magna Carta is proclaimed to be in force, the banner of decentralisation is taken up and the needs of the regional barons are appeased when and how it suits. Recalculating regional funding, Next Generation funds and …. elections.
What can Sánchez offer independence? Time. The pandemic and the presidency of Aragonès has returned Catalonia to autonomic multilateralism, but even the most pragmatic pro-independence supporters shy away from the debate on constitutional reform. In the Palau, Torra’s isolationism is shunned and there is justification for being wherever it is convenient in defence of resources for the Catalans. Bilateral commissions continue – the Economic Affairs Commission on 22 December – but participating in the debate on the institutional architecture means unacceptable resignations for ERC.
The bilateral commissions continue: the Joint Economic Affairs Commission will meet on 22 December after three years of drought.
The Republicans are seeking to square the circle in order to be the reference point for independence and the left, but what they face is a new dual vote. The PSC could win again in Catalonia in the general elections and ERC – as CiU did before – would win in the Catalan elections, according to the Institut de Ciències Polítiques i Socials (Institute of Political and Social Sciences). Then there is the pro-independence duality. The polls reward ERC, but the post-convergence resilience is a mystery. Hence the trade-offs between pro-independence pedigree and management, with an eye on the municipal elections. Junts has been on tour for weeks trying to recruit well-known local PDECat members and ERC will activate the machinery after the Christmas break.
In the meantime, the process will take longer than expected, and even Jordi Sànchez admits he does not know how to continue on the road to independence. In fact, Junts is delaying the meeting it demanded from Aragonès after the budget pact with the Commons until the internal debate on the new scenario for the legislature is resolved.
With Junts divided between pragmatists and defenders of permanent confrontation, the Republicans could become indigested by the coalition in the Government at the same time as new horizons open up once the umbilical cord with the CUP has been broken. Aragonès does not need a question of confidence to consecrate new majorities. After reaching an agreement with the Commons, he will reach the CCMA pact with the PSC, which will create an alternative to independence at the top of the public media. And in ten days’ time it will have the wild card of calling elections.
When, then, will the Catalan constitution that the president yearns for be ready? During the tripartite, if ERC’s pro-independence stance was questioned under the presidency of Pasqual Maragall, the response of the first minister Josep Bargalló was more pragmatic than Aragonès: “this Government is self-determining with every decision it takes”. After failed declarations of independence, and imprisonment combined with pacts with the PSOE, the argument does not lead from autonomism to heaven, but it allows them to remain in power and govern without stridency.