On the volcano
The fate of Pere Aragonès and that of Pedro Sánchez are more connected than they - and many of their supporters - would like. Sánchez has it in his hands, in the last stretch of his mandate, to lay the foundations for a new stage with the government of Catalonia and to survive the fury of the right with the votes of the periphery in Parliament. For his part, Aragonès is obliged to ensure that the negotiating table with the State is something more than a photograph and a thermometer of political impotence.
Both have in front of them an army of milkers of a failure that they announce every day and that has, in principle, two years to evaluate itself if the CUP does not decide to break the government majority first.
Sánchez is determined to show that the problem of democratic Spain is not the PSOE government but the forces at work, the deep state that represents a large part of the administration, the high courts and the triple right of Colón. His will to push ahead with the pardons has already run up against reactionary Spain, the same Spain that was unwillingly set in motion with Aznar's absolute majority. It was then that the PP leader opened the door to the most intense constitutional involution that Spain has experienced since the 1980s and at the same time gave oxygen to independence in Catalonia. ERC went from 12 seats in 1999 (8.6% of the vote) to 23 in 2003 (16% of the vote), to 33 today (21% of the vote), which has brought Pere Aragonès to the presidency of the Generalitat with a coalition that has a sovereigntist parliamentary majority of 52%.
The PP knows perfectly well that the vast majority of Catalan public opinion is in favour of a referendum and pardons, but it also knows that its electoral growth is at the expense of democratic values and by promoting a uniformising policy that dreams of wiping Catalan nationalism off the map. The PP has long since given up on Catalonia, where in 2003 it had 15 seats and where it has now reached the highest quotas of misery with the 3 parliamentary representatives of 2021 (3.85% of the votes).
With an injection of renewed forces of Spanish nationalism after Ayuso's victory in Madrid, Casado is once again turning to Catalonia to wear down the government. This is a new version of Aznarism, with a pitiful Casado willing to set up tables again to collect signatures as Rajoy did, this time not against Catalonia with the excuse of the self-rule Statute, but against pardons for pro-independence politicians, ignoring that Spain is a country where all kinds of coup perpetrators and criminals have been pardoned.
The pardon may prosper in the government and overcome the earthquake within the most nationalist Spanish PSOE, but the PP and Vox can count on the overreach of the Supreme Court to prevent it. In fact, the Constitutional Court report is an indication of how far the reactionary fury can go to limit the political capacity of the executive. The court has not limited itself to giving the advice required by law, but has ratified its sentence and has made impertinent political considerations that go beyond its judicial functions. That is, in full coherence with the political role that the PP gave it in the management of the conflict with Catalonia and which has brought us to this point: to the greatest constitutional crisis that democracy has ever experienced and the weakening of the exercise of democracy in the eyes of Europe.
Sánchez has to choose whether to force the PSOE to confront Spain's democratic quality and the courts that are exceeding their functions, even if his success is not assured. He is guaranteed noise in a Madrid that is increasingly leaning to the right and with a press that mostly tries to interfere and influence politics instead of analysing or observing it to serve citizens.
Sánchez and Aragonès will speak next week in a new tone, but with political divergences intact. If Sánchez pushes ahead with the pardons, it will be a first step, the beginning of a new stage, and he will have to be recognised for his courage. But it will only be the first step on a difficult road in which Spain and Catalonia will have to negotiate in a civilised manner what has always ended with a bombing of Barcelona, a firing squad, or prison.
Nuggets in the Palau
Undoubtedly, a new stage has opened in the Palau de la Generalitat. The image of a young president holding hands with a two-year-old girl is a breath of fresh air in a space that had become dense.
Aragonès has the attraction of normality after so many years of anomalous situations. Catalonia is emerging from a pandemic and an unprecedented economic recession and needs to rebuild itself with new ambitions and energy.
The president has two years to pull the country out of the collective depression and sovereignism has two years to explore where it can go and with what majority.
For the moment, in the Generalitat, life has filtered through the solemn stone walls. On the very day of the investiture, by nine o'clock in the evening it had become late for a two-year-old child, but there is always a watchful grandmother. This time, with a nuggets in her handbag in the Pati dels Tarongers. In a country with an excess of epics and a lack of politics close to the citizens, practical things are to be welcomed when people are having a hard time.
Esther Vera is the editor-in-chief of Diari ARA.