Pick and shovel
To get out of the hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. The obviousness comes to mind in a week in which a Madrid political army and its voters have been doing their utmost at pick and shovel work. However, the use of a pick and a shovel is also applicable in Catalonia, where the political representatives of sovereignism, incapable of forming a government since the 14 February elections, have stopped work when the country's and independence's plumbing began to break down, believing they were reaching the water table. This Saturday, after private and public ultimatums that irritate the Junts negotiators, the ERC candidate for the presidency, Pere Aragonès, has taken Jordi Sànchez at his word to give him enough support to govern alone
ERC's move has left Junts with a change of pace and it is not clear that it will not end up leading to elections, because it will have to be the rank and file of the party led by Sànchez who accept the proposal of its secretary general. An accident is possible, despite Junts' assurances that in no case is a repeat election on its agenda.
Catalonia has had an acting government for 222 days, both because of the predictable partiality of the Spanish justice system and because of President Torra's option to sacrifice himself for an ephemeral gesture. The negotiations, which have lasted more than 80 days, have not managed to bring strategies closer together or put an end to the internal war between the pro-independence parties, which has been particularly bitter since the end of 2017. Junts and ERC are incapable of making a joint diagnosis of the mistakes and successes made more than three years ago, and this is blocking them and the country.
Strategies for the future
It is not a question of not having reached an agreement on government policies, but of not having reached an approximation on future strategies regarding the negotiating table that perhaps one day the Spanish government will have the courage to establish, giving it substance and not as a distraction. A Spanish government to which the sovereigntist internecine war is giving time to avoid having to fulfil its responsibility to deflate and solve the underlying problems that have brought independence to 52% of the Catalan Parliament.
In the words of an intelligent negotiator, "the Madrid table is tactical for some and strategic for others". It perfectly defines the willingness or unwillingness to go down this road and the different reading of what the alternative routes are in 2021 after the experience of 2017.
The stumbling blocks are basically the same as they were at the beginning of the negotiation, and lie in the reading of the past and the evaluation of the forces of sovereignty, internally and before the State.
Going into detail, ERC recalls that it won the elections and Junts considers them a draw. ERC considers that popular sovereignty is in the Parliament and is embodied by the institutions of the Generalitat, and Junts is in favour of agreeing strategies in Madrid in a space of coordination within the Consell per la República, a body now made up of 97,154 members.
What is the outlook now? Aragonès' move has put an end to Junts' strategy of exhausting the negotiation deadlines, despite the fact that Junts does not consider it to be broken. But Aragonès has been categorical in his determination to form a government alone. With the votes of the CUP and predictably of En comú Podem, Sànchez's party will have to decide whether to support a minority government of the electoral winner (behind the PSC) or to precipitate the elections.
In the meantime, vaccination is beginning to open cracks of light in the sinister tunnel of the pandemic and the economic recession. The citizens of Catalonia cannot continue to pay taxes and wait for the institutions to return some distant day to facilitate business management, the quality of education, investment in research, the improvement of university quality and support for the social network and public services. Impatience is justified when the Generalitat has disappeared in the management of European funds, which could mean a revulsive in the country's economic and business model.
Abandoning autonomous management does not bring even the most convinced people closer to independence.
If it is formed, the Aragonès government will be weak at a crucial moment, but it will be cohesive. Citizens will take good note of who picks up the pick and shovel to build the country and who picks them up to continue digging. To begin with, the PSC, whom the independentists vetoed in the campaign, would have to clarify whether Pedro Sánchez has the courage to take on the pardons. Without pardons and by asking independentists to "abjure" their ideology, the hole will surely become more and more insurmountable and everyone will have their share of responsibility in the loss of usefulness of politics.