Politics 30/03/2021

Aragonès is also defeated in the second round due to disagreement with JxCat

The republican candidate recognises the role of exiles and the Consell per la República but warns that he will not accept "tutelage"

5 min

Pere Aragonès will have to hope it is third time lucky. In spite of the fact that the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) candidate only needed more votes in favour than against - as opposed to the first round, when he needs over 50% of the votes - his second attempt also ended in failure: Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) abstained and for the second time in four days the investiture stalled. Aragonès only received the support of 33 Esquerra MPs and 9 CUP MPs, a total of 42 ayes which were not enough to be elected president of the Generalitat, making him the second candidate to lose both investiture votes. Whilst Junts' abstained, all other parties opposed Aragonès's candidacy. The parties will now have two months until, on May 26, elections are automatically called.

Although none of this came as a surprise - JxCat announced their abstention yesterday -, the most important thing of the plenary session has been the change in tone of the two current coalition partners during their speeches, which will make the next phase in the negotiation easier, after the reproaches heard in Friday's debate. Aragonès has made gestures in this sense towards Junts per Catalunya, despite the fact that he has not spared them criticism for blocking his election. Aragonès assured that it was necessary to "acknowledge" all pro-independence spaces, both in Catalonia and in exile, including the Consell per la República - that has run blocked negotiations - and the need to construct a joint strategy, one of Junts's claims. However, he has also warned that this will not imply "substitutions or tutelage": this means that neither the presidency of the Generalitat nor Parliament will be subject to the directives of other bodies. Unlike on Friday, Aragonès ignored En Comú.

The warning has not pleased Junts per Catalunya, which, although it has thanked Aragonès for his outstretched hand, has asked him leader "not to confuse neither the electorate nor Parliament". JxCat has assured that they do not seek the Generalitat to be subordinated to the Consell per la República. They propose the Consell as a body only to direct the independence whilst the government takes care of the management of its competences.

"No one from JxCat will impose tutelage, and even less so from exile," insisted JxCat spokeswoman Gemma Geis. Geis replaced Albert Batet, who is isolating at home after being in close contact with a someone who had covid-19. Geis reminded Aragonès that he only has 33 MPs and has to assume that it is he who has the responsibility to obtain votes for the investiture: "Assume that it is you who has to reach an agreement with JxCat and not only ask us for responsibility". Despite the fact that, in general, the tone has been more constructive than on Friday - Junts has acknowledged that they are closer to the agreement - their MPs kept their arms crossed when Aragonès was applauded by Esquerra MPs.

"There are no excuses. The digestion [of the results of 14-F] can be slow but not eternal," responded ERC leader Sergi Sabrià, who criticised that "the unity that is so much proclaimed is not exercised". ERC put all the blame for the failure of the investiture on JCat's attitude, although they are confident that the obstacles will be overcome soon: "The economic and social urgencies cannot wait".

Building the alternative to dialogue

Unlike the previous investiture debate, Aragonès has emphasised the need to find a "shared diagnosis" on the referendum of October 1, 2017 and build a joint strategy from there. In their opinion, what failed three years ago was the inability of the pro-independence movement to mobilise citizens against the Catalan republic in the referendum and the lack of international recognition. Instead, he stressed the conjunction between the institutions and civil society to promote the referendum. "We need to recover alliances and isolate reproaches," he concluded.

In this sense, despite putting dialogue with the State at the center of his political action, he has also said that we must build "alternatives" if the negotiation fails. "Once we have surpassed 50% of the votes, it would be a mistake not to take advantage of this strength to vindicate ourselves before the State," said the ERC candidate, despite admitting that we must also seek a shared project of independence if the Spanish government continues to veto the referendum.

According to Esquerra's presidential candidate, all of this can be fixed in this debate, making the investiture prosper because there are no "insurmountable obstacles". Addressing directly to Junts per Catalunya, he has urged them to make their presidency possible this Tuesday. "What we can already do today cannot wait for days or weeks," he said, paraphrasing the secretary general of Junts, Jordi Sànchez, last Tuesday, cooling off the immediate agreement. Aragonès has remarked that Catalans "are exhausted" and that the Catalan Government needs to count on all its capacities to face the pandemic and the economic crisis.

The programme's sticking points

Beyond the Independence bid, Aragonès also referred to the proposals he made the other day in the social sphere, such as the €700m shock plan to combat inequality and the creation of the Department of Universities, Climate Action and Feminisms, in addition to a commissioner - who reports to the Presidency - to manage European funds. He has also defended the programme agreed with the CUP, which provides for a stop of all evictions and universal basic income.

Geis has criticized both the agreements that ERC maintains in Madrid with the PSOE and the one it has signed in Catalonia with CUP. Of the first, which includes the negotiating table, she recalled that the socialists have prevented the amnesty law from being processed in the Spanish Parliament, have not shielded Catalan linguistic immersion, made the reform of sedition increasingly "unreal" and have already discarded the referendum. That is why she has demanded an agreement of all pro-independence forces in Madrid.

Of the document signed between ERC and the CUP, she insisted that Junts "does not feel challenged" and criticised two features: the moratoriums on renewable energy projects and the budgetary impact of the universal basic income. "We feel far from this project for the country that they have agreed with the CUP", she concluded. However, Junts is optimistic that the agreement will end up making progress in the coming weeks. "You already have our confidence, what we need is to build agreements so that your presidency has a clear course," Geis stressed, citing the economic recovery and the horizon of independence.

CUP warns JxCat: "Universal income is not on the table".

Faced with JxCat's misgivings about proposals such as universal basic income, CUP spokeswoman in Parliament, Eulàlia Reguant, has warned that "the pro-independence roadmap needs a programme of social transformation." "Universal income is not on the table; it is a basic tool to guarantee rights, it is the basis of republican freedom," said the deputy to emphasise that they do not intend to accept JxCat amending the pre-agreement that CUP signed with ERC and that includes this and other measures of a social nature. CUP has already explained that if the document signed between the two formations is altered due to Junts' demands, they will reconvene their membership to vote on the final text. "We will keep our fist closed to those who want to confuse country and party," she said.

In a speech in which she stressed social issues, Reguant has defended the need to apply a programme that places the needs of the people in the centre of the Republic that they want to build. "The radicals want to insist on the country's challenges and on how to face them," she remarked, after denouncing the serious economic problems that a large part of the country is experiencing. Thus, Reguant has urged for European covid funds to be used to "rescue the people and not big business", recalling that in 2008 and all efforts were devoted to saving the banks. "It may be the term for a new onslaught against the State, but depending on Junts and ERC, it may become the term for an onslaught by the people against the Government," she concluded.