Misc 11/02/2021

The joint veto of the PSC does not lower the tension inside the independence movement

JxCat and ERC exchange jibes despite having signed manifesto against socialists together

5 min
The empty Chamber of Parliament in an archive image.

BarcelonaTogether for Catalonia (JxCat) and Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) have both spent a large part of the campaign attacking the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), whilst also calling each other out over the pacts both parties have signed with the socialists. JxCat governs with the PSC in the Barcelona provincial council, while ERC have signed agreements with the socialists in the Spanish Parliament. If anyone thought that the fact that JxCat and ERC committed themselves on Wednesday in writing to not seek an agreement with the socialists to reach the Catalan government would lower the tension in the pro-independence bloc, they were wrong. The two parties signed but still distrust each other. The joint veto of the socialists has not calmed the waters.

The candidate for JxCat, Laura Borràs, has based her campaign on warning of the possibility of a coalition between ERC, PSC and En Comú. This Thursday, once Esquerra had already signed the veto of the PSC, Borràs was still unconvinced. In fact, she remarked that ERC candidate, Pere Aragonès, has delegated the signature to the head of campaign, Sergi Sabrià. "He must know why he has done that," she said at a press conference with Efe. She also urged voters to opt for the candidate who inspires more "trust" and "coherence". According to Borràs, the most relevant pact for the interests of Catalonia is in the State between ERC and the Socialists, and for that reason she has asked the Republicans to also transfer the veto to the Socialists in Madrid. She believes the impact of the alliance between JxCat and the socialists in the Provincial Council is smaller than ERC's in Madrid, although she has offered to reverse it if ERC breaks with the Socialists in Madrid and in some town councils.

JxCat insists that if ERC can join up with the Socialists and En Comú, they will choose this option over a pro-independence coalition. Borràs thinks that this won't necessarily be a coalition, but could also be a confidence and supply arrangement. "In the Tv3 debate [Aragonés] did not make it clear to me," said Borràs.

JxCat candidate, Laura Borràs.

ERC signed the manifesto because it considered that it was along the same lines of what it has said throughout the campaign and could not allow any suspicions about its position. "We will not agree with the PSC. It is nothing that we have not said a thousand times," the Republicans explain. The document, however, has generated much more noise than any of the statements the party made in its rallies. This Thursday, ERC candidate Pere Aragonès wanted to play down the controversy arguing that they have signed to be coherent and nothing else. "We have no problem signing what we say," he argued in an interview with RAC1. But, once this issue has been resolved, distrust of JxCat remains. ERC did not appreciate Borràs asking them to break the agreements it has with the Socialists at a state level. Aragonés criticised Borràs for "too often mistaking [who is her] opponent". "I regret this campaign of reproaches and mistrust towards a candidate who should be seen as an ally," he explained. ERC is clear about not entering deals with the Socialists in Catalonia, but also that it will not change its strategy with the Socialists in Madrid. Aragonés has defended that, whatever the result of 14-F, they will maintain their current roadmap to independence, which is to widen the base of supporters of the republic and try a dialogue with the Spanish government to agree on the referendum. "We have set a strategy that we believe is the best," he said.

Raül Romeva, Pere Aragonès and Diana Riba this Thursday.

Where does the manifesto come from?

The commitment of the pro-independence parties not to agree with the PSC arises from an entity, Catalans for Independence, born on December 27, 2020 to put "pressure on the parties" without waiting for the approval of any "leadership", explains Maria Mas, president of the association. In fact, it was already tried at the end of 2019 at state level, but it was not possible because the ANC, of which they were then part, ended up blocking it.

The manifesto for the 14-F arises, as Mas explains, to encourage electoral participation: "We want people to see that their vote will be useful to prevent the PSC from getting into government because of the setback that this would mean in the struggle for independence," she says, adding that this has to be a "starting point" for strategic unity. A unity that, if it comes, will have to arrive after the electoral campaign, since Mas explains that they wanted to hold an event for "a joint signature" but that the candidates' commitments made it "unfeasible". In any case, she downplayed Borràs's criticism of Aragonès for not signing it directly, since it had to do with what cities the candidates were campaigning in. "We had people in Lleida and, taking advantage that Borràs was there, she signed it, but in Manresa, where Aragonès was, we didn't, and his campaign manager, Sergi Sabrià, offered to sign it and we thought that was good", she explains, although she clarifies that if it had been necessary they would have waited to have Aragonès's signature

The PSC seeks advantage and post-election pacts become more complicated

Meanwhile, the PSC has seen in the joint veto that the independentistas have signed an opportunity to regain momentum for their campaign and to try to reduce the uproar generated candidate Salvador Illa's refusal to undergo a PCR test before the debates on television. Illa himself himself has described this veto as "the Colón photo of the independentism". "This is one more episode of the fighting and confrontation," he criticised, reports Anna Mascaró. With the episode of the Plaza de Colón in Madrid, he refers to the joint demonstration organised by the PP, Cs and Vox against the Spanish government in February 2019 and that ended with a joint photo of the three parties. At first it seemed that that movement of the Spanish triple right would result in a definitive shake-up against the PSOE government, but what it really meant is that the socialists came out reinforced in the following general elections.

Salvador Illa this afternoon

Apart from the reproaches between JxCat and ERC, the document signed against the PSC shows once again that the two current coalition partners are doomed to understand each other after the elections. And they will have to do so despite the fact that they leave behind a legislature full of reproaches and a campaign that has not been very different. ERC would like to add the CUP and En Comú to the next executive, but neither of the two parties seem very keen on this strategy. The CUP has doubts as to whether it wants to enter the Government at all, and the commons reject being in the same executive as JxCat. Therefore, the joint veto of the pro-independence movement confirms that the PSC will not be in the equation of possible electoral pacts between the pro-independence parties, but makes it even more complicated to find a formula to be able to invest a government. The spectre of a second election is on the rise.