Politics 28/09/2021

Catalan Parliament examines Government's stability

General policy debate, which begins this Tuesday, will again measure the harmony between ERC, JxCat and CUP

3 min
The vice-president of the Generalitat, Jordi Puigneró, and the president, Pere Aragonès, in a recent plenary session of the Parliament.

BarcelonaSince the elections on 14-F, the pro-independence movement has more deputies than ever in Parliament (74) and it takes pride of having overcome the barrier of 50% of votes for the first time, but until today all this has not translated into a greater political unity of the movement or more stability of the Government. The general policy debate, which begins this Tuesday and will last until Thursday, will be a re-examination the state of the question: do ERC, JxCat and the CUP have a common denominator which will allow them to move forward effectively? The beginning of the parliamentary political year – it will be the first plenary session since the summer break – will allow a calculation of the possibilities of understanding for the next four years. The debate will also reveal to what extent the Socialists and En Comú want to get involved in Catalan governability, especially when it comes to negotiating the Generalitat's budgets, which loom ahead.

This Tuesday will also be the first general policy debate with Pere Aragonès at the head of the Generalitat. Last year's debate, at the gates of Quim Torra's disqualification, already revealed a picture of the independence movement that has not changed much since: the three parties disagreed on how to react to the Supreme Court's ruling – ERC and CUP wanted elections and JxCat did not. In fact, this Tuesday will mark the fifth anniversary since the last roadmap shared by all pro-independence parties and even obtained En Comú's temporary support was made public. Then Catalan president Carles Puigdemont demanded a referendum and called for a vote o October 1, 2017. Since then, there have been more misgivings than shared horizons.

But despite the reserved prognosis of the political moment, Aragonès faces the plenary as a new opportunity to vindicate his government and his strategy in tackling the political conflict, based on dialogue with the Spanish government. Sources of the Presidency explain that this Tuesday the president will intensify "the bet on negotiation as a path to solve the political conflict with the State" with the referendum and amnesty as milestones and formulated as a proposal for "the whole country". Although it does not constitute any outstanding novelty in the script, it is always relevant to solemnise the topic in Parliament, especially after the new shake-up provoked by Puigdemont's arrest and subsequent release.

The main way to measure pro-independence unity will be the motions for resolutions that each group presents in the debate and that will be voted on on Thursday afternoon. ERC, JxCat and the CUP have been preparing their own for days, and the question will be whether they are able to put some in common. Contacts have begun, but it will not be easy. While ERC defends negotiating, the spokeswoman of JxCat, Elsa Artadi, already warned this Monday that Puigdemont's arrest proved how "little credibility" the negotiating table had. JxCat does not plan to present any text contrary to the negotiating table, but they will develop proposals to show their differences. The CUP has also been cirticising the government for weeks over the negotiation with the State and, in fact, last week it already convened territorial assemblies to analyse the "breaches" of the investiture pact signed in March with ERC.

Beyond the Independence bid

In spite of the fact that the Independence bid continues as an important part of the political agenda, Aragonès is the first to fix the objective that it does not determine everything. Thus, the government also wants to talk about the list of measures to "rebuild" Catalonia after pandemic. Ecological transition, feminism and social policies will be some of the issues the president will discuss. Both he and the vice-president, Jordi Puigneró (JxCat), have proposed to isolate the Government from the discrepancies over the Independence bid and want the executive to show cohesion in its day-to-day management.

In this area too, the general policy debate is not expected to be much more placid, as all the groups are expected to manoeuvre to try to position the Parliament in favour or against two controversial issues: the extension of El Prat airport and the candidacy for the Winter Olympic Games. And on this point, the discrepancies are transversal and go beyond the traditional division between the pro-independence and against independence blocs. For example, the PSC is a fervent supporter of both projects, while En Comú are against both. Nor does the government of ERC and JxCat think the same way as the CUP.

The Socialists will also be in the limelight, since it is the first general policy debate since they took charge of the constitutionalist bloc after Ciutadans' electoral disaster. Socialist leader Salvador Illa has so far combined an outstretched hand with frontal criticism without having decided clearly in favour of either of the two options. The Catalan executive will listen carefully to his intervention, especially at the point where he would have to clarify whether the offer to negotiate next year's budget is serious. The Generalitat insists that the CUP is their priority partner, but the CUP increasingly signal they will not support the budget. In addition, En Comú are not as willing to do as in 2020 and offer their vote. The negotiation of the budgets this autumn will be the ultimate test to know what stability the government has.