Lola García – Deputy Director La Vanguardia – 21/06/2020
The President of the Generalitat wanted to give solemnity to the extinction of the single central command over Catalonia in relation to the pandemic. Quim Torra took over phase 3 on Thursday and, on the same day, declared the “resumption phase” or come back phase inaugurated. The president, like many people, does not like the expression that Pedro Sánchez so profusely uses of “new normality”. He prefers “resumption” because, in his opinion, it includes not only the meaning of resuming interrupted work, but also that of recovering power taken from him. Nor does Torra like the concept of “reconstruction”, which is used by the central government to its ERC partners. For the president, the objective is not to go back to what was before, but “to build a disruptive future” that would include independence. Semantic discussions aside, Torra, who came to power convinced that his mission was to establish the Catalan republic, now faces the countdown to his mandate with another priority, that of facing the consequences of the coronavirus.
What will be the pro-independence electoral offer in the post-Covid stage? ERC has decided to present itself as the pragmatic option, which prioritizes economic recovery from a left-wing option, independence as a goal once it is possible to expand social support and a commitment to dialogue with the Sánchez government, although it can hardly give today fruits that go beyond the autonomous framework. But in the world that Convergence once occupied, gibberish is indecipherable. Finally, the ex-coordinator of the PDECat, Marta Pascal, promotes a candidacy that emulates without dissimulation to the PNV (Basque National Party), which squeezes with solvency the “keep it for you”. It remains to be seen what bite of the cake can take. Meanwhile, in the rest of the post-convergent space, disorder prevails, always pending what Carles Puigdemont decides from Belgium.
The former president insists on coining a new electoral brand, beyond JxCat. It would be a matter of bringing together the PDECat, the independents that it has been adding to its electoral lists, the Crida, the Democrats of Catalonia and even some faction of the CUP. His representative in the negotiation of this complex network is Jordi Sànchez, former leader of the ANC. The priority for Puigdemont is the demand for a referendum. The discussion can be flexible about dates or conditions of the consultation, but without concessions to the central government as long as the Moncloa does not assume the referendum in terms that include independence.
Within months of the election, Waterloo’s plans run into difficulties. The PDCat refuses to dilute itself into another artifact of the ex-president. And the battle to lead the candidacy for the Generalitat divides the party. Thus, while Torra, increasingly distanced from his mentor, promotes PM Laura Borràs as head of the list, Puigdemont would prefer regional minister Jordi Puigneró in a pool in which Joan Canadell, president of the Cambra de Comerç would also enter; Marta Madrenas, Mayor of Girona, or some other name that she could propose unexpectedly. For its part, the PDCat officialism would be headed by regional minister Àngels Chacón, while the prisoners Jordi Turull and Josep Rull champion the regional ministers Damià Calvet and Miquel Buch as a tandem for the Generalitat and the party that would embrace pragmatic independence.
This convoluted panorama reflects an evident conflict of interests, but also the disorientation on the way forward after the failed declaration of independence and a pandemic that has turned the management of public services into a matter of life and death for citizens. More and more JxCat leaders use the expression “doing politics” as longing and need. In the bosom of independence, the recognition that an unilateral short-term challenge is not possible and that citizens demand more attention to pressing concerns, from health capabilities to the industrial potential hit by the closure of Nissan, is spreading like an oil stain. At the same time, the existence of prisoners and legal proceedings against pro-independence activists prevent normalizing politics in Congress.
Regardless of which faction prevails in the world inheriting Convergence or where the pulse between JxCat and ERC lies, the independence movement faces the difficult task of reconstructing and defining its strategy. The pandemic has shown that the management of symbolism and the systematic confrontation with the central government cannot be the most visible aspects of its political project.
Torra does not want Aragonès in the “resumption”
President Quim Torra did not want ERC Vice President Pere Aragonès to participate with him in the press conference last Thursday in which he assumed control of the de-escalation, once Catalonia entered phase 3. In that appearance, the president explained that that same day he decreed the start of the “resumption phase” or come back phase. ERC proposed to participate in the press conference alleging that it was Aragonès who negotiated with Pedro Sánchez that, once phase 3 had been reached, the autonomous communities would take command of decisions about the coronavirus in their territories. It was the condition to support the last section of the state of alarm. JxCat, however, voted against. But these explanations did not convince the president at all, who flatly refused.
Moncloa and Minister Illa polls
President Pedro Sánchez knew the socialist PSC leader Salvador Illa before naming him Minister of Health, but far from it as now that they have shared hours of internal debate and data analysis. The Moncloa has surveys that reflect the public notoriety that Illa has acquired as a result of the coronavirus epidemic and that has a good level of assessment by citizens. Also in Catalonia. In fact, Miquel Iceta, with whom Illa maintains a close collaboration, already thought of him as a possible successor at the head of the party and as a candidate for the Generalitat in the future. But that is not foreseen for the next Catalan elections, in which Iceta will continue to occupy the list of Catalan socialists.