Borràs calls to "restart" Independence bid in her debut as JxCat leader

Former minister Turull beats Speaker on votes and emerges reinforced from Puigdemont's farewell congress

4 min
Carles Puigdemont during his speech at the Junts per Catalunya congress in Algiers

ArgelersTwo years after Together for Catalonia (JxCat) officially became a political party, a new stage has begun that will no longer have either Carles Puigdemont or Jordi Sànchez at the helm. The two highest party posts have taken a step aside to let Speaker Laura Borràs and former Catalan minister Jordi Turull take over, who were elected this Saturday at a party conference held in Argelers. Turull received more votes, although they were on the same ticket.

Former Catalan president and JxCat founder Carles Puigdemont also attended, and was received by party members as if he were a rock star. He asked the new leaders not to dissociate themselves from JxCat's founding objectives: "We must be recognisable, whether in government or in opposition, as the political tool which, despite having everything against it remains serene and useful for the completion of the independence process". Borràs picked up the gauntlet by calling to "restart" the Independence bid and "rebuild" all those mistakes she believes the independence movement made since the independence referendum on October 1, 2017

JxCat's new president Laura Borràs and secretary general Jordi Turull.

JxCat's new president made her debut by sending a message to Catalan president Pere Aragonès, and also to JxCat's cabinet members present in the first row of Jean Carrère hall, alongside a thousand party members: the Generalitat government must be "nationally more ambitious", which "means having in mind that it must govern with a pro-independence vision". In her opinion, the "purpose" is not to govern for the sake of governing, but to do so in order to "achieve a sovereign country". A way of warning that she will be demanding when assessing the progress made under the coalition agreement with Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), which she has been suspicious about since the very beginning.

Borràs has distanced herself from any option of dialogue with the State and has thus played down the possibility of a change in the Spanish government. "What will a government of the right or far right do that the left has not already done?" she asked. Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has also very critical, who accused the Spanish government of being "corrupt" and of harming Catalans because of the pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament. "36% against 184%, for fuck's sake! Enough is enough," Puigdemont complained, referring to the latest data on the State's budgetary execution in Catalonia and Madrid. In this sense, he did not hold back on attack on ERC and called the dialogue table a policy of "burying one's head in the sand" and thinking only about the "welfare" of the party cadres.

Neither does Jordi Sànchez, outgoing secretary general, believe the conditions for dialogue with the Spanish government are right, but he has made a call to "rebuild the [independence movement's] strategic unity" by "activating" the majority it enjoys in the Catalan Parliament. The response from ERC ranks to the speeches made in Catalunya Nord did not take long to arrive. ERC general secretary Marta Rovira asked "incomprehensible reproaches" between coalition partners to be set aside. "On the road to the republic we must be allies, not adversaries," she wrote in a message on Twitter.

Shouts of "Independence!" at JxCat party congress in Argelers.

Message in the votes

Although there have been no surprises in the messages, the votes gave different results to the 2020 primaries, in which Laura Borràs swept the floor. Borràs only came third this time: she obtained 1,776 votes –participation was about 30%– behind Turull's 1,854 votes, who came first, and MP and mayor of Vic Anna Erra (1,791).

People from Borràs's camp have also suffered a protest vote, with aspiring organisation secretary David Torrents a paradigm. Badalona City Councillor obtained 918 votes and –like MP Ester Vallès– did not reach the minimum number of votes to enter the executive. In fact, the same thing almost happened to the Parliamentary Bureau's third secretary, Aurora Madaula, who is also Borràs's right-hand woman: she obtained 919 votes. According to party conference rules, both Torrents and Vallès should not get a spot on the leadership team, but this Saturday official sources assured that they would be included regardless. If this ends up happening, it will likely cause a stir, since they would be breaking their own rules: several sources already warn that there could be legal challenges.

Outgoing JxCat secretary general Jordi Sànchez, during his speech in Argelers.

Out of the leadership members proposed by Turull, none has been left out of the executive due to lack of support. Alongside Turull and Erre, the most voted leaders have been party spokesman Josep Rius (1,676); Catalan Finance minister Jaume Giró (1,648); JxCat leader in the Spanish parliament Míriam Nogueras (1,637), or Girona mayor Marta Madrenas (1,614). David Saldoni, who was dropped as organisation secretary at the last minute of negotiations between Borràs and Turull, obtained 1,424 votes.

The result of the votes is, according to Turull allies, a message that Borràs should bear in mind when making decisions. There is an undercurrent which in recent months has distanced itself from Borràs's rhetoric and which is also unsure of the effects the charges brought against her before Catalonia's High Court will have (she stand accused of awarding contracts to a friend while director of the Institution of Catalan Letters). This sector is concerned about the tension that this may cause with ERC and that Borràs' allies are flirting with the possibility of dropping out of the executive if ERC does not support her.

On the other hand, Turull and Sànchez's speeches backed staying part of the Catalan government. Outgoing secretary general Sànchez has remarked that the party "cannot abandon institutional work" and that thanks to ministers' action the party has expanded. Incoming secretary general Turull defended "governing" in an "effective way". JxCat has started a new stage, yet which camp will end up having the upper-hand remains unknown.