Lola García, 14 December 2023
Pere Aragonès and Salvador Illa talk in Parliament during yesterday’s session.
Quique García / EFE
Now that in Catalonia they are talking about education and not about separating from Spain, in Madrid they are discussing alleged coups d’état by the PSOE in collusion with the pro-independence supporters.
“Without water, in the dark and the children don’t know how to read, write or add up”. This is how Salvador Illa summed up his criticism of the ERC government’s management, referring to the lack of foresight in dealing with the drought, the delay in the implementation of renewable energies and the poor results of Catalan students in the Pisa report. The leader of the opposition said that pro-independence leaders have devoted too much effort and attention over the last ten or twelve years to the procés and have forgotten what is really important for citizens. Has Catalonia lost trains while it has been involved in the debate on independence?
The causes of these shortcomings are manifold, and it is difficult to assess how much the confrontation between the central and Catalan governments during the pro-Catalonia process may have had an influence. Obviously, the PSC argues that it is a determining factor, while ERC and Junts reject it and maintain that everything would be better if they had the tools of a state of their own. In any case, it is indisputable that the pro-independence parties have been reorienting their discourse towards other issues beyond secession. ERC was the first to change course, and now Junts is beginning to do the same.
Jordi Pujol also turned to the nationalist narrative, but did not forget to defend his administration, even with slogans as explicit as “la feina ben feta”. The current president, Pere Aragonès, arrived with the firm intention of recovering the institutional nature of the office, marking a distance from his predecessor, Quim Torra, a pro-independence activist, and avoiding the noise of a coalition government with Junts. The recipe was to embrace a flat profile and avoid any conflictive issues, such as the expansion of El Prat airport. This led to an image of inaction that is now backfiring.
ERC thought that, once Junts was out of the government, its executive work would be valued by voters. But the Republicans have already seen in the elections of 23 July that management is not profitable at the ballot box. Or, to put it another way, good management does not help win elections, but bad management leads to defeat. The poor educational results and the drought project a devastating image of the Government, although the responsibility is shared with those who also exercised that responsibility before.
Now, a year away from the elections, ERC has begun to adopt some measures with media impact in order to regain momentum. These are the classic announcements of aid or tax discounts. For example, a voucher for school supplies or a tax rebate for those earning less than 30,000 euros. It also focused its agreement for the investiture of Pedro Sánchez on the transfer of Rodalies and the cancellation of part of the Generalitat’s debt, rather than competing with Junts for a referendum. Junts will even include financial demands in its negotiations with the PSOE.
The Republicans are trying to follow in the footsteps of EH Bildu, which is growing electorally with an agenda completely focused on social issues and not on independence, although ERC leaders sometimes return to the discourse of the procès-electoral process. The words of EH Bildu’s spokesperson in Congress, Mertxe Aizpurua, who warned Aragonès this week that calling a referendum on self-determination is a “serious” matter that must be preceded by a “calm” debate, were very revealing. “Haste is a bad adviser in this matter”, she concluded when asked about an article by the president in the Financial Times in which he asks Sánchez for courage to agree on a sovereignty referendum.
That Catalonia’s delays in some areas are a consequence of the procés can be debated. That those in power devoted more time and effort to the desire for independence than to other issues is clear. And that the Catalan media agenda was completely flooded by the pro-Catalan procès, even more so. The latter is also relevant since public opinion’s concerns were dominated by the dichotomy between independence or not. What is talked about is just as important as what is not talked about. Now that Catalonia is mumbling about education, Madrid is shouting about coups d’état plotted by the PSOE in collusion with the pro-independence supporters.
A point aside
The government crashes with the judiciary
The first attempt by the new Minister of Justice, Félix Bolaños, to re-establish relations between the government and the judiciary proved even more difficult than expected yesterday. Francisco Marín Castán cancelled the scheduled meeting with the minister because of statements critical of the judges – not by any socialist leader, not even Sumar, which is part of the government, but by the spokesperson for Junts, Míriam Nogueras, who stated in Congress that some Supreme Court judges were “indecent and in a normal country they would be dismissed and tried immediately”. The PSOE (and also the PSC in Catalonia) is trying to recover dialogue with the judiciary, which has been badly affected by the pardons and now by the amnesty, through dialogue, but relations have been badly damaged.
From the very first moment the PSOE- Podemos government was formed, Pablo Iglesias’ first statements against the judges caused a rift that has only widened over time. Bolaños will try to re-establish a certain institutional relationship with the judiciary, but it is not foreseeable that he will reach an agreement with the PP to renew the General Council of the Judiciary, at least not before the European elections next summer.