Politics 16/02/2021

ERC, JxCat and CUP in quick negotiation to form a Government

The main disagreement from the outset is that Aragonès' party wants to include En Comú and Borràs's party does not

5 min
The deputy secretary general of ERC, Marta Vilalta, on Monday.

The day after the elections of 14 February has served to confirm the paradigm shift within the independence movement. Therefore, only 35,000 votes and 1 seat ahead of JxCat, ERC will aspire to lead the next government with JxCat as second in command. On Monday, ERC said as much to anybody who would listen and the latter have shown signs of accepting it. The starting point of the legislature begins with a point of agreement and a point of disagreement. In the field of coincidences, the two parties aspire to a quick negotiation to form a Government, a fact not minor if one takes into account that the last two investitures - that of Carles Puigdemont (2016) and that of Quim Torra (2018) - were delayed by more than three and four months. But they have also shown the first divergences. ERC wants En Comú - and also the CUP - to participate in the agreement for the investiture, while JxCat only wants to count with pro-independence forces and excludes En Comú. These are the first cards on the table for a negotiation that will begin imminently.

ERC has come out to savour Sunday's results a little more. For the first time since the Independence bid began, it is the leading party in the pro-independence movement, albeit by a small margin. In this new scenario, the general secretary of the Republicans, Marta Vilalta, has proposed to form the government "the sooner the better" and has insisted on the idea that it would have to be a four-party executive: them, JxCat, CUP and En Comú. In short, the "broad" government that they have repeated during the 15 days of campaigning. The argument is that the four parties are supporters of the referendum and the amnesty and that if they managed to agree, there would be 82 MPs at the service of the new government, a large majority. "The responsibility has to be shared," Aragonès said in an interview with RAC1. It will not be easy for ERC to convince En Comú, who have once again said they refuse any deals with JxCat: "Aragonès insists on a formula which he knows will not prosper", reports Mireia Esteve.

But the Republicans do not plan to surrender so easily. When negotiations begin, ERC will propose to the three parties to negotiate not only the investiture of Aragonés, but also the budgets of the Generalitat of 2021. Republican sources admit that it will not be easy to realise this broad government, but they maintain the hope of at least achieving "a broad agreement". That is, by including En Comú in the agreement on the budget, the party would participate in the governance of Catalonia without having to become part of the executive and without having, therefore, to share a cabinet with JxCat. ERC's obsession is to start the legislature with a more "stable" framework, after having survived the last three years without a reliable majority in Parliament. Proof of the agility that the ERC seek is that this Monday they have already appointed their negotiators: Marta Vilalta, their leader in Parliament, Sergi Sabrià, president of the National Council, Josep Maria Jové, and the number two of the candidacy, Laura Vilagrà. They have also taken another important decision: they will begin the round of contacts with the CUP and not with JxCat. Since election night, they insist that Catalonia has made a turn to the left.

Secretary General of JxCat, Jordi Sànchez, the day after the elections

Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) also aspires to a legislative agreement that gives stability to a "strong government". The secretary general of the party, Jordi Sànchez, after a meeting with the leadership, has concluded that it is up to Pere Aragonés to take the initiative to form the new executive, but has called on the Republicans to prioritise the pro-independence forces to assert the unprecedented result of absolute majority in votes and seats. From JxCat they reject an incorporation to the executive of En Comú and distrust the insistence of ERC on this issue when the government would enjoy a large majority without them. As for the design of the new government, however, Sànchez has not wanted to show his cards and has only said that it is necessary to agree on a government programme and the continuity of the process. JxCat does not consider the minimal victory of Esquerra an amendment to its pro-independence strategy and notes that the CUP has increased its support, which supports a unilateral strategy and a referendum before 2025. JxCat's negotiation will be led by the general secretary, Jordi Sànchez; the president of the party, Carles Puigdemont, and the candidate, Laura Borràs.

As for the CUP, the third actor in this scenario, has to decide whether to get involved in an agreement of confidence and supply with ERC and JxCat or opt for specific agreements for the investiture - a fact that would clash with the will of Aragonés to link his election to the draft budget of 2021. The final decision will be taken, as the ARA has been able to know, by the political council that the CUP will celebrate on February 27, two Saturdays from now -reports Xavi Tedó-. Even so, due to the importance of this decision, an assembly, like the one that in 2015 debated the investiture of Mas, cannot be ruled out.

The stop station: the Parliamentary Speaker

Although this Monday it is still early to visualise how the future government may turn out - there are informal contacts, but the negotiation has not yet been formalised - the two parties have their preferences. Several sources consulted from JxCat assume that "there will be changes" to areas to the Government and that if ERC's electoral programme is taken into account, they will probably propose a Department of Ecological Transition and Climate Change - an area that would be taken away from the Department of Territory, led by Damià Calvet - or a Department of Feminism. Junts also expresses its willingness to change Departments around. They particularly want to be in charge of the Department of Health, putting Dr. Josep Maria Argimon at the helm, and Foreign Affairs and Institutional Relations. These two departments are currently managed by ERC.

Beyond Government, the other institution to govern is Parliament. A new speaker needs to be elected. Recently, JxCat and ERC have agreed to share, with one party appointing the president of the Generalitat and the other the Speaker. This would mean the new speaker would be appointed by JxCat.

Esquerra admits that this is a possibility and JxCat believe that it has to be so considering the results. In fact, the party considers it the first true test of ERC's intentions. Some voices in the party doubt whether, at the last minute, ERC will opt for a similar formula to that in Barcelona City Council or the Spanish Parliament - govern with En Comú with tacit support of the PSC on the outside -, despite Aragonés denying it. "The negotiation of the Parliament Speakership will be a first indicator", says one of those consulted, while another states that when the constitution of the Catalan chamber is reached, the pro-independence government would already have to be agreed. All this will be known on March 12, the date on which the new legislature will be inaugurated