Deputy director – La Vanguardia
05/10/2020 01:38 Updated 05/10/2020 21:00
ERC spokesman in Congress, Gabriel Rufián, in an intervention on the state of alarm (Pool / EP)
At the height of the procés, when the final stretch towards 1-O was approaching, which then led to the unilateral declaration of independence, a metaphor related to aviation made its fortune among some leaders of the Government. They used to argue then that the independence movement was like an apparatus that had just deployed the flaps, raised its nose towards the sky and the track began to be left behind. It was that moment when the acquired speed made it impossible to abort the takeoff. It only remained to go forward. When Catalan elections were held in December 2017 with the intervention of Article 155, a turning point seemed to be reached. In reality, what we have been through in this legislature has been nothing more than a digestion of what happened in that autumn of 2017. Now that new elections are sighted in a matter of months, the two main independence parties are preparing for the landing.
A little over two years ago they promised to apply the mandate of 1-O, open a constitutional process and establish the republic. Disobedience was the maximum for months and reached its climax with the trial of the imprisoned leaders and the wave of street protests. After that effervescence, JxCat and ERC have become a misguided marriage of convenience, without a common project. Even President Quim Torra no longer proclaims disobedience, but the atavistic grievances between the partners have been fueled by new quarrels as the electoral horizon approaches. The battle is now focused on the calendar. Torra firmly holds the command of the electoral date by delegation of Carles Puigdemont, although the Supreme Court can take it away in a few months with his disqualification. Meanwhile, the agendas of both parties circulate along divergent paths, while keeping an eye on each other.
ERC tries to regain influence through Iglesias; JxCat returns to the single list, now for reconstruction
On the one hand, Republicans are trying to embrace realism. They took on tasks in government that have now placed them in the spotlight, such as healthcare. The intention of Oriol Junqueras was to demonstrate the usefulness of his party, to erase from the collective imagination the endemic association between Convergencia and management. At the national level, ERC returns to the box of the agreed referendum, at least until a sufficient majority is available and channels for dialogue with the central government have been exhausted. The risk of this bet is that it may place Esquerra close to the reviled autonomist flank. The historic decision to participate in the governability of Spain with their votes in Congress provokes anxiety in some sectors of the party, especially when JxCat tightens the rope of emotions.
The ERC plan was to fix all the focus at the dialogue table on the Catalan conflict. The objective was to visualize the bilateral relationship, as an equal, before the elections. But along the way, Republicans have had to pronounce on a state of alarm that centralizes power in Pedro Sánchez. On the fourth vote, ERC has succumbed and voted against, as JxCat had already been doing. The decision, in addition, has allowed Sánchez to display another possible majority, by the hand of Ciudadanos, putting at risk the patina of essential ERC. Since this week, Republicans have begun to re-establish themselves. Several leaders, from Pere Aragonès to Marta Rovira, try to regain influence through the vice president and leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias. The debate on the State Budget, the distribution of which is essential in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, could coincide this fall with the Catalan electoral campaign.
Meanwhile, JxCat persists to prolong its stay in power, convinced that Esquerra will not get anything out of its relations in Madrid and that each day that passes it wears more Republicans before the pro-independence electorate. The skill with which Puigdemont and his people manage emotionality baffles ERC, who fears for some 200,000 votes that both formations are vying for each other and that they swing depending on events. And Puigdemont is a master taking advantage of the situation.
JxCat’s way is to exploit the influence of legitimacy and rebellion, placing Esquerra on the side of surrender. The former president does not hesitate to approach Marta Rovira, despite her strong discrepancies in 2017, to try to recover the unique list, now justified by the exceptional nature of the coronavirus: the unity of independence to confront reconstruction. The disqualification of Torra by the Supreme Court will encourage movements by JxCat to assert the figure of Puigdemont as legitimate president when deciding who should be at the head of the Govern during the period of transition to the elections. JxCat has become a force without a clear candidate, co-led from Belgium and from Lledoners prison, but with a chameleon-like capacity to attract oppositional and essentialist pro-independence sectors, who do not want to turn the page.
The next elections will decide who reaches the goal first, either JxCat or ERC. Be it one or the other, it is very likely that their collaboration will last. JxCat is not interested in leaving the Govern and ERC would do a bad business if it left its rival completely free. Both deploy the landing gear, always attentive on the radar to who rules in Moncloa.