Acting President Aragonès, yesterday at a ceremony in Montjuïc for the 90 years of the Second Republic Quique García / EFE
The distribution of power is always painful for any party. It’s no wonder ERC and Junts are finding it difficult. Republicans aspired to greater room for maneuver and Carles Puigdemont’s followers are not used to being left behind in an election. However, distributing positions and powers, when there are so many cards to exchange, is always something that ends up being resolved. The same thing happens when political leaders negotiate economic items. The haggling will be more or less fierce, but it usually ends in agreement. The problems arise when discussing the background, the currents of opinion, the hegemonic discourses. And this is what is happening in Catalonia. ERC wanted a turning point in the independence procés. To regain momentum, yes, but also to control the times and establish itself as a ruling party. Junts, on the other hand, tries to prevent the Republicans from flying alone, subjecting their strategy to a constant exercise of negotiation, to a pulse between the two pro-independence parties.
The talks have taken a turn in recent days. After Pere Aragonès’ failed investiture attempt, the positions were so fierce that the two sides seemed to have more one foot out than in. In an interview with La Vanguardia, Jordi Sànchez, who takes the reins for Junts, assured that, if there was no agreement, they would remain in the opposition, although they would vote for Aragonès as president of the Generalitat so as not to repeat the elections. During several days the voices of the Junts advocating for not entering the government and letting ERC macerate in a precarious state to regain steam in a mid-term electoral call proliferated. Among some Republicans, the temptation began to spread to leave the Junts out of power, hoping that they would dissolve like a sugar and rely on the Comuns and the CUP. Since the two partners have accumulated abysmal misgivings and mistrust, the little desire was allied with laziness …
And so two months have passed. After two months of negotiation and, despite putting a program on track, ERC and Junts remain estranged
The risk seems averted for the moment. Shortly after Sànchez’s statements to this newspaper, ERC and Junts discussed what would happen if Aragonès chose to ally with the Comuns and the CUP. In Esquerra they did not quite believe that those of Puigdemont would give their vote so as not to provoke an electoral repetition. Junts confirmed that this was its position, although with the exception that the president would have only the four votes necessary to prevent the parties opposed to the investiture of Aragonès from being able to unseat him, but he would not have the 32 votes of the MCPs of Junts, because that would be as much as endorsing “the broad path” that ERC defends and not the clearly pro-independence Government that the post-Convergencia people demand.
Those tests seem to have been left behind. The discussion on the role of the Consell per la República has also been put aside, beyond agreeing that its organization chart must be reconfigured and that it will not protect the president of the Generalitat. Progress has been made in the government program and it is expected to enter in the structure of the Generalitat’s departments next week. There has not yet been talk about the distribution of ministries or names, although everyone is aware that, as more they enter into the matter, it is always more difficult to back down. It is curious that the least thorny thing is to agree on a government program … And, being that so, what is the main obstacle?
The most difficult thing goes through Madrid. For the Moncloa and for the Congress of Deputies. ERC has established a privileged relationship with Pedro Sánchez who is not willing to subordinate his partners. And Junts considers essential that there is a strategic direction of the independence movement that agrees on how to relate to the central power. Those from Puigdemont give as an example what happened this week with the vote on the law for the protection of children, known as the Rhodes law, which had a “critical yes” from ERC, which supports the rule but censors the invasion of competences, which is why this one led the PNV to vote against. Junts considers that this would be a clear case in which the Government should file a competence dispute with the central Executive, but that is incompatible with the vote granted by the Republicans.
It is an example of a law that has nothing to do with the procés, but that raises differences of perspective between the two partners. And it is a norm in which the pro-independence votes were not decisive, since it went ahead with a very broad support from the Chamber. Until now, when Pedro Sánchez has needed ERC votes to approve a parliamentary initiative, he only had to negotiate with the Republicans. Now he would also have to do it with Junts, since the two partners would agree on their position vis-à-vis the central Executive. Also in what refers to the political dialogue table between the central and Catalan governments. For ERC, that means giving up part of its power in Madrid.
If finally, the two partners reach an agreement of these characteristics, the parliamentary majority that supports Pedro Sánchez would thus be altered on the Catalan flank, at a time when other allies, such as the PNV, show their irritation with some forms of the Central executive. Sánchez can still rely on Ciudadanos, but he already knows – and the Madrid elections will probably ratify it – that this is a support with little trajectory ahead.