The PSOE calls for a pact with the independence movement for the entire legislature and is already preparing the 2024 budget.
José Enrique Monrosi / Arturo Puente
22 September 2023
Pedro Sánchez, in Congress this week Eduardo Parra / Europa Press
The PSOE will repeat the formula of pardons in order to explain the amnesty law
Not a political agreement that is limited to the investiture, but one that covers the entire legislature. In the negotiations for the re-election of Pedro Sánchez as President of the Government, the PSOE is demanding that its potential parliamentary partners guarantee the stability of another four-year term with, at least, the approval of three General State Budgets. And with this in mind, the Socialists, via the Ministry of Finance, are already working on drawing up the accounts for next year.
The negotiations between Sánchez’s party and the parties whose support is essential have been taking place for weeks away from the spotlight, while Alberto Núñez Feijóo faced the long month as a candidate for an investiture without options. And, although according to all the sources consulted, these negotiations are still far from their final phase, there are already very specific elements that have been fixed in advance by each of the parties. One of these is the PSOE’s demand for a four-year agreement shielded from future political turbulence within Catalan politics itself, with regional elections scheduled for 2025.
There are parties that have not only willingly accepted this demand but have made it their own, such as the PNV. “We want to talk about the investiture and the legislature’, said the president of the Basque nationalists, Andoni Ortuzar, who added: ‘I have the feeling that Junts also wants to talk about the legislature’. Ortuzar’s party, which has recently met with Carles Puigdemont, enjoys a recognised ascendancy over Catalan independence in general, and over Junts in particular. And this influence also serves as a trump card for the Socialist Party in a negotiation that is as complex as few others.
Because of this difficulty, the PSOE’s contacts with Junts are particularly intense and constant. To obtain its seven votes in Congress, Sánchez needs former president Carles Puigdemont, who is wanted by the Spanish justice system for the illegal referendum of 1 October 2017 and the subsequent declaration of independence, to make a major personal and political change that will lead him to move from blocking to negotiation and from rupture to collaboration in the governance of the state. And that is why everyone in Ferraz is treading carefully before taking anything for granted.
The end of unilateralism
Once the path of amnesty has been taken, the socialists demand of their interlocutors that this path, which is not free of risks and is sure to be turbulent for the PSOE, should not under any circumstances be taken in the midst of an atmosphere of attempted humiliation on either side. With this premise in mind, the PSOE demands that the Catalan independence movement should also take steps on a par with the scale that Pedro Sánchez is preparing to take. In other words, that the amnesty should be more or less explicitly matched by a public stance by Carles Puigdemont in which he banishes any hint of unilateralism.
In reality, this demand is not new and was already expressed in the same terms as the rejection of the unilateral path in the case of ERC when the government faced the pardons. In a letter published in the Diario Ara and La Sexta, Oriol Junqueras put it this way with regard to a referendum: “Today we continue to believe that the best way to do it, as we have always defended, is the Scottish way. The path of pact and agreement, the path of the agreed referendum. Other ways are neither viable nor desirable”.
The PSOE’s hope is that Puigdemont will now take a step equivalent to that of Junqueras that will help the government to support, before Spanish society as a whole, a measure that it disavowed until just a couple of months ago and for which Sánchez himself has begun to prepare the ground. “The political crisis never had to derive in justice, what I have done since then is to try to return to politics what never had to leave politics,” he told the media this week during his visit to New York for the UN assembly.
Sánchez’s path to amnesty
Without mentioning it, Sánchez outlined in the same appearance the first arguments in defence of the amnesty. “We took the reins of this country in 2018 with a society that was traumatised by a rift and an institutional and constitutional crisis such as it had not experienced in 40 years, and the results are visible and support us. The citizens have said yes to the politics of reunion with risky and sometimes even misunderstood decisions. When I say that I am going to be consistent with the policy of normalisation that I have pursued in Catalonia, I am saying a lot”, he said.
As soon as Feijóo’s attempt at investiture passes, it will be the leader of the PSOE and acting president of the Government who, in the first person, will spend weeks explaining and defending an amnesty law that will be called as such but which, according to sources involved in the negotiations, will have a long “surname” that conveys the dimension and spirit of the agreement. “It is not about annulling the crimes that existed; it is about writing a new page that leaves the conflict behind and opens a period of understanding for several generations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain”, according to the PSOE.
The idea is that the first step in this display of political ‘pedagogy’ will be very similar to that which was also carried out with the pardons, announced at a large-scale event in Barcelona’s emblematic Liceu in front of representatives of Catalan civil, political and economic society.A scenario that could be repeated in the case of the amnesty.In its defence, Sánchez will make it clear that the agreement will always be framed within the limits of the Constitution, which is why the idea of a referendum on self-determination is a red line for the Socialists that their pro-independence interlocutors are already aware of.
Deadlines for the agreement
Both sides of the negotiation are also extremely cautious about the deadlines, although there are those in the PSOE who maintain that October, a date that was considered a few weeks ago but which includes some important days such as the anniversary of the referendum or the military parade on the 12th, may be too early and, therefore, the investiture could take place in the first few days of November.
In any case, the socialists have made it clear that the so-called “advance payment” demanded by Junts in its negotiations, which has taken the form of agreements such as the one on co-official languages, will have its limits in the case of the amnesty. This agreement, which will be processed in Congress by means of a Proposition of Law, will be qualified by the Board of Congress and taken into consideration by the Plenary, but in no case will its parliamentary processing be completed before the investiture.
In the event that the agreement that all parties are currently hoping for is reached, the bill would be presented jointly by the parliamentary groups of the coalition government partners, PSOE and Sumar. Legal experts from both sides are working on the drafting of the legislative initiative, which requires an extensive explanatory section, as this newspaper reported, and every word is being scrutinised in search of legal guarantees, taking for granted that the text will be appealed to the Constitutional Court by the right. Depending on the outcome of the final draft, the ERC and Junts parliamentary groups could consider whether or not to join the joint signature. ERC tries to get its head out of its ass
The little-disguised rapprochement between the PSOE and Junts has generated misgivings among ERC, which sees how this legislature could see it cease to be the Catalan party with the most ascendant position in the government. Given this, the strategy of Oriol Junqueras’ party has been to step on the gas and stress that its conditions for negotiating go beyond the amnesty, which they already foresee will be one of the main points of the pact that Pedro Sánchez closes with Carles Puigdemont. Junqueras has spent the week insisting that ERC has already reached an agreement with the PSOE that included amnesty. He does so by alluding to the pact that the Socialists and Republicans signed for the Board of Congress, which included a section in which the former undertook to resolve the legal cases arising from the ‘procès’ through “the necessary legal channels”.
“It is clear that amnesty is a legal route and is necessary. That is why we take amnesty for granted”, said Junqueras last Wednesday, in an appearance in which he recalled that the arrests of the ‘procès’ began in his office and among his closest collaborators, who were in charge of preparing the referendum.
From Sumar, acting vice-president Yolanda Díaz has refuted this argument, warning that the amnesty should not be taken for granted until the negotiation is completed. However, Pedro Sánchez was careful not to deny – but neither to confirm – Junqueras’ assertion.
Thanks to this exchange of opinions, ERC has managed to get its head out of the negotiation. But the Republicans are aware that the focus is on Junts and that in the coming weeks nothing points to things being any different.