CRISTIAN REINO, Barcelona, Sunday, 31 October 2021
Catalan independence supporters listen to Carles Puigdemont, in an archive image. / AFP
The former president of the Generalitat wins the elections for a kind of parallel parliament that he himself promotes and to which the ERC and the CUP turn their backs.
The fourth anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan Parliament, which failed to even lower the Spanish flag from the Palau de la Generalitat, has just passed, and although there are already relevant nationalist leaders who are recognising, as is the case of Artur Mas, that the ‘procés’ was a hoax, there are sectors of secessionism that insist on the rupturist rhetoric of October 2017.
Especially Carles Puigdemont and the formation he leads, Junts, who nurture the idea that the 1-O mandate is in force and that the Catalan republic, which only lasted eight seconds on 10 October four years ago, can be reactivated at any time, as if all it takes is the push of a button.
It is in this context, and in the context of the struggle between pro-independence parties, that the first elections for the assembly of representatives of the Council for the Republic took place, in which 87,830 Catalan pro-independence supporters were called to vote between Friday and Sunday.
In the end, only 26% of the census took part, which, as expected, allowed Puigdemont, who is selling that his return to Catalonia as a free man (with the endorsement of the European justice system) is near and that as soon as it happens, he will return as president to lift the suspension of the declaration of independence and make it effective.
The assembly of representatives is a kind of parliament in exile, which must act in parallel to the Catalan Chamber. This forum, outside the Catalan institutional framework, has the function of electing the president of the Council for the Republic, a presidency that until now has fallen to Carles Puigdemont, installed for the last four years in Waterloo, in what he calls the ‘house of the Republic’, from where he tries to maintain the leadership of independence, although Esquerra, which has shifted to more pragmatic positions, does not allow him to do so.
“We continue to build the parallel institutional framework to make independence effective”, say its promoters. An institutional framework, they point out, that is not subject to Spanish legality and is free from Spanish control. “They cannot apply 155 to us”, they point out. The logic of the republican institutionality in exile assigns itself the task of keeping the 1-O mandate alive and not extinguishing the spark of the ‘procés’, although it is a partisan initiative and without any recognition beyond Junts, while the Catalan Parliament – the real one – is attributed the tasks of autonomic management.
The Council for the Republic is divided into two legs: what would become a Catalan government in exile and a parliament outside the autonomous chamber. Puigdemont fled Spanish justice but presents himself as an exile. A condition that is recognized – at least rhetorically – in sovereignty and even by Pablo Iglesias.
The former president was yesterday the leader who obtained the most votes in the elections to the assembly of representatives. There was little surprise in elections called for the greater glory of the nationalist leader and in which no relevant members of the ERC or the CUP took part. Puigdemont wanted to present it with all the pomposity and appearance of officialdom, since the electoral call was announced by a supposed decree, published in the “official bulletin of the Council for the Republic”. Yesterday, they even organised an election night, like any date with the ballot box, with live counting, graphics, and live connections. It was sold as an exercise in direct and technologically advanced democracy, although it took them a while to give the results.
Duel with Borràs
Puigdemont obtained 21,000 votes. He beat Clara Ponsatí, Tono Comín and Laura Borràs, who did not even come second. There was a certain morbid curiosity in testing the forces within Junts, between the two heavyweights of the party, the two leaders who are waging a war to take control of the former Convergència.
There were 525 candidates, including Clara Ponsatí, Toni Comín, Lluís Puig and Pilar Calvo. This figurative hemicycle will have 121 ‘seats’, 81 for anonymous citizens and 40 for elected officials. Almost all of them are from the Junts orbit.
Neither ERC nor the CUP are buying this project. The Council for the Republic, as ERC privately describes it, is Puigdemont’s ‘chiringuito’, and this private entity, paid for by the membership fees of 100,000 members, almost blew Pere Aragonès’ investiture out of the water.
The former president, at least this is what ERC claimed, intended to tutor the government, as he did with Quim Torra, from Brussels. Aragonès refused outright, although he has had to pay some tolls, such as travelling to Waterloo shortly after his investiture, or accompanying Junts’ candidate in Sardinia when he was arrested by the Italian police.