Political parties

Internal unity the challenge as Borràs and Turull take charge of JxCat

Party members asked to vote for all leadership candidates to avoid protest votes

4 min
The president of the Parliament, Laura Borràs, and the former minister Jordi Turull, yesterday.

BarcelonaThis Saturday Together for Catalonia (JxCat) will hold its first congress in Argelers. Two years ago the party was formally founded in an online event, in the midst of the pandemic. Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former Catalan National Assembly (ANC) leader Jordi Sànchez were anointed president and secretary general, although internal tension and strife abounded. Now, Puigdemont and Sànchez, who played leading roles in the 2017 Independence bid, have stepped aside and a new tandem has taken charge: former Catalan minister Jordi Turull, who was a cabinet member in 2017, will be the new secretary general; Speaker Laura Borràs, who has been the party's visible face since the 2020 primaries, will become president. Turull and Borràs managed to piece together a unitary candidacy at the last minute and will now face the challenge of making the power sharing they have agreed on at the top, with half of the leadership team from each camp, operational. They will also have to guide the party after the Puigdemont era. The former president was a uniting figure within the party, but he will now focus on the Council for the Republic instead.

Some leaders are optimistic about the new stage, since they believe that if Borràs and Turull understand each other, their respective camps will join forces without protest. Others, however, believe it will be a constant struggle to gain the top hand between Borràs's hardliners and Turull's more institutional inclination. The debates they will have to face are immediate: pacts in local councils and, mainly, sticking to the deal with the Socialists at Barcelona Provincial Council (Borràs has always been against it); the coalition agreement with ERC for the Catalan government, which Jordi Sànchez brokered and which Borràs has often distanced herself from; and the consequences of the Institution of Catalan Letters (ILC) case, which affects Borràs and may again strain relations with ERC and also with CUP.

Laura Borràs and Jordi Sànchez during the negotiations to form a government with ERC.

Borràs and Turull have sent a letter to party members this Friday where they promise a "new, open, democratic [party], born from the generosity and the sum of the people and baggage of the ideological traditions of the independence movement". But they have also made a request: "We ask you to trust each and every one of the names [of the candidacy] who have taken the step to accompany us in this challenge". A subtle way of asking members not to vote against anyone on the Borràs-Turull ticket aspiring to the leadership. This option has been considered in recent days by some leaders, especially those close to Turull, who are dissatisfied with names such as aspiring vice president Aurora Madaula, or organisation secretary David Torrents, a post Turull ceded to Borràs at the last minute to reach an agreement. In exchange, it was agreed that the current secretary of organisation, David Saldoni, close to the Turull, would become deputy secretary general, a newly created position to guide local council policy.

It should be noted that, although there is only one candidacy, the voting system allows specific candidates to be left out of the leadership team if they do not obtain at least half the votes of the first candidate on the list. There will be up to three different ballot boxes: one to vote for secretary general, organisation secretary and finance secretary; another for the presidency and the four vice presidents; and another for the twenty members running for the leadership team.

Thus, it is not only about measuring the support specific candidates for the national leadership have, but also the support Borràs and Turull have among grassroots. Borràs has always swept the board when she has been submitted to internal votes (the last time was to become JxCat's presidential candidate in the February 14, 2021 elections), but it remains to be seen whether she still enjoys such popularity. She has come under fire for her management of Parliament (the age-based leave scandal and Pau Juvillà's suspension) and recent leaks on the corruption investigation of her time at the head of the ILC. The vote will also be a test for Turull, since it will verify to what extent she has the support of the party in the face of potential clashes with Borràs.

JxCat rally in Balaguer with organisation secretary David Saldoni and Social Rights minister Violant Cervera.

Second phase

JxCat's congress has two phases. The first, this Saturday in Argelers, will see the new leadership elected. In the second, on July 16 and 17 at La Farga in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, the political, organisational, local and sectoral positions will be discussed. Each one has a coordinator and this Saturday, behind closed doors, they will outline a first draft to launch the debate in the coming weeks. The attention will focus on politics (coordinated by Aleix Sarri, close to Borràs's positions) and the organisational (led by Catalan minister Violant Cervera, close to Turull). In the first session the party's direction will have to be defined, in which the different groups within it will try to find some common ground. On the second day, the statutes will be reformed to guarantee that the presidency and the general secretariat take all decisions by mutual agreement. This last point was one of Borràs's conditions to renounce running for secretary general and not compete with Turull: Borràs believes that under Jordi Sànchez she was not given enough weight inside the party and now she wants to reverse this by taking command.