ERC rules out solo government for time being because it sees progress in negotiation with JxCat

JxCat denies "turning point" in talks and will consult eventual pact with membership

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

BarcelonaFor the time being, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) has ruled out trying to form a government alone. It was an idea that had been maturing for weeks due to the lack of progress in negotiations with Together for Catalonia (JxCat), but which the party finally discarded. Saturday marked the deadline ERC had set for an agreement, yet their joint General Secretary Marta Vilalta justified continuing efforts to form a coalition government by alluding to a "turning point" in talks with JxCat.

What has made ERC change its mind? Vilalta has avoided specifying by arguing "discretion" needs to be kept for the negotiation to come to fruition. Therefore, ERC has seen some positive change, although JxCat speaks of "continuity" in the talks and denies that there has been any "turning point" since Saturday. The spokeswoman for the party, Elsa Artadi, has assured that in no private meeting had Esquerra set out the deadline of May 1 which ERC presidential hopeful Pere Aragonès talked about in an interview in the ARA and that they have not been working on any alternative to the coalition government. For Artadi, the expression "turning point" used by Vilalta "has to do with the ultimatum they have been explaining to the press and not with the meetings". "There has been no before or after May 1. All meetings are useful and progress is made. We cannot make an assessment of a turning point that we have not talked about," concluded Artadi, which once again evidenced the different perspective, if not contradictory, between the two formations.

The two most complex areas of the negotiation are how to structure the next Government and the pro-independence strategy, in which the role of the Consell per la República and the scope of the sovereigntist unity in Madrid have to be fixed. According to the consulted sources, this last point was addressed on Saturday at the meeting in Lledoners

The vice-president of JxCat, Josep Rius, and Elsa Artadi.

Consultation to the bases

Artadi has maintained that JxCat "will not negotiate through the media" and has avoided setting dates to the investiture beyond the limit of May 26. She explained that throughout this weekend they have worked internally on the proposal of ERC's government structure - which, as advanced by ARA, proposes the unification of Foreign Affairs and Climate Action - and that "shortly" - without specifying when - they will answer. What she has specified is that Junts will consult its membership at the end of the talks, both in the case of an agreement and if the leadership decided to take a different approach. JxCat secretary general Jordi Sànchez said that, in the event that an agreement is not reached, Junts would avoid elections by giving the necessary votes to ERC. According to what Artadi has said this Monday, this would require members' backing.

Plot twist

ERC's decision to leave aside the idea of governing alone has generated some surprise. This is because ERC itself had set May 1 as the deadline to reach an agreement with JxCat and Republican sources assured that, if there was no agreement by that date, an "alternative" would be explored. After the deadline there has been no agreement, but no alternative. Vilalta's explanation is that in the meeting that took place on Saturday in Lledoners there was a positive "turning point" and, therefore, the idea of solo government has been put aside. Even so, she has claimed that they do not rule out reactivating it "as a future scenario" if the talks run aground again.

So, with a solo government off the books, right now the negotiations are where they were with the only difference that ERC says it believes progress has been made. Vilalta has again warned JxCat that it would be "irresponsible" not to close an agreement soon and exhaust the deadline ending on May 26. "The country cannot wait any longer. It has to have a fully functioning government," she concluded

A "weakened" Aragonès

The lack of understanding between ERC and JxCat to start off the new term becomes daily ammunition for opposition parties. For socialist spokeswoman in Parliament, Alícia Romero, ERC candidate Pere Aragonès "is further weakened every passing day". And not only because he cannot arrive at an agreement with JxCat, but because he loses "credibility" when he sets "ultimatums" that he does not follow through with. En Comú, through their spokesman, Joan Mena, have again insisted as they do every week that ERC should renounce their agreement with JxCat and seek a left-wing coalition with En Comú Podem and PSC. "We do not understand why we have to give up on a strong, brave and left-wing government," he concluded.