Politics 01/02/2021

Illa agrees to debate Aragonès; Borràs proposes "threesome"

The campaign teams will now have to close a deal if they want it to actually happen

3 min
Salvador Illa, at the ACN press conference

BarcelonaStraight after the second nine-way electoral debate, two of the main candidates for victory are already itching for a less crowded format that allows them to confront their projects directly. Catalan Republican Left (ERC) candidate Pere Aragonès suggested this option to the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) during the TVE debate, and this Monday their candidate Salvador Illa has picked up the gauntlet. "I have no problem debating with anyone who wants to debate with me," he said at a press conference organised by ACN. The socialists warn, however, that they will only do so in the event that it is authorised by the Central Electoral Board and this, in the past, has generated much controversy. In particular, due to the opposition of other parliamentary parties. This same Monday the JxCat candidate, Laura Borràs, the other party that the polls place as possible winner, has made a counterproposal: "The polls put JxCat in the lead for the first time and now there two gentlemen who want to capitalise on the debate. I propose to them: why don't we have a threesome?"

During the press conference Illa has set himself up as the leader of constitutionalism and insisted that resolving the Catalan conflict involves "dialogue within the law". However, he has made clear his firm opposition to independence: "Independence is divisive, and I'll turn the page on this". Illa left the Spanish Ministry of Health to run for president of Catalonia, pushed among other things, by the need, he says, to turn the "page" on the independence bid through a change of government. That is why he hopes, if he gets enough seats, to lead a minority Government with Catalunya en Comú - Podem as partner, reproducing the same coalition that governs the State and Barcelona City Council. The polls do not foresee this being enough support and, in the best of cases, they would need at least one other political force to join them. The Catalunya en Comú - Podem suggests ERC, but ERC and the socialists veto each other, precisely as happened in Barcelona after last year's municipal elections.

Illa has argued that there is not a social majority for independence but a "broad majority" that wants a "reunion". That is why he is committed to "dialogue within the framework of the rule of law". The proposal of the Socialists if this dialogue comes about is, he stressed, the 44-point document that the Moncloa proposed to the Catalan Government at the negotiating table on February 6 last year, which addresses issues such as funding or infrastructure, in addition to the commitment to "historical memory" and the desire to avoid the judicialisation of politics. "This is a compound state, but there is still room for improvement," he admitted. However, Illa has made it clear that his priority for the next legislature is the management of the health crisis, and has insisted on "cooperation, effectiveness and efficiency" between administrations to make it possible.

The duel

When he found out this Monday by media reports that Illa had accepted the debate, Aragonès wanted a date and time to be decided on as quick as possible. It would not be the first time that two candidates challenge each other but, at the moment of truth, do not reach an agreement to fix the duel on the agenda. With this debate, Esquerra wants to try to show that these elections are a race between them and the Socialists, thus excluding JxCat, which also has possibilities of triumph. Aragonès believes that the duel with Illa is necessary to "be able to contrast projects", since, according to him, he represents a Generalitat with will to lead, whilst Illa represents a Generalitat "controlled from the Moncloa". For this debate to see the light of day, it will now be necessary for the two campaign teams to reach an agreement: on the format of the debate and on the place where it will be held. And, of course, that the Electoral Board gives it the go-ahead.