Pro-independence movement urges caution in Borràs case

ERC and CUP avoid commenting on her possible suspension while other parties take for granted she will have to stand down

3 min
Laura Borràs, in an archive image at the Parliament

BarcelonaThat the case against Speaker Laura Borràs for alleged misfeasance when she ran the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes (ILC) would strain the seams of independence was well known even before this Parliament was elected. The pressure on parties to take a position on the Speaker's future, however, has increased now that Catalonia's High Court has left her one step away from trial. The judge Jordi Seguí gave the Prosecutor's Office ten days to decide whether he wanted to accuse Borràs, in whose performance he sees evidence of misfeasance, embezzlement, administrative fraud and false documentation. This would be a step on the way to see her appear in court. According to Parliament's rules, such an appearance in a case linked to corruption would entail her suspension as an MP. Neither her party, JxCat, nor the other pro-independence parties, ERC and CUP, however, have wanted to make a statement on this possibility. In the aftermath of the Juvillà case, the three parties have opted for prudence while other groups have already taken for granted that Borràs will not be able to continue.

"Right now there is no accusation from the Prosecutor's Office, only a report from the examining magistrate. We cannot and do not want to advance possible scenarios," JxCat leader Albert Batet stated. "Without an accusation there can be no trial. Out of responsibility we cannot express ourselves beyond defending the presumption of innocence," he added while recalling the alleged procedural "irregularities" in the case denounced by Borràs's defense. JxCat's support for the Speaker, which frames the case as part of a persecution of pro-independence politicians, could be taken for granted, so that all eyes are on ERC and the CUP. ERC has not commented on the issue in Parliament, but party sources refuse to discuss future scenarios. "There is nothing to say," MP Meritxell Serret told the media. CUP's Xavier Pellicer took the same line: "We do not have enough elements nor are we at the right time to assess the situation or [...] how we should position ourselves".

An "uncomfortable" case

At the same time, Pellicer highlighted his party's "very clear commitment" against corruption, Pellicer also recalled the "generalised" operation against the independence movement. Two elements, he said in a game of balances, which will guide his party's position in the weeks or months to come. While waiting for the Prosecutor's Office to make a decision and the judge to decide whether to call a hearing – in Roger Torrent's case it took four months – the independence movement seems to have decided to cross that bridge when they come to it. Pellicer has admitted it is a "complex" and "uncomfortable" case at the heart of the movement. This was already evident last October when a report was tabled suggesting a modification of article 25.4 of the regulations, which establishes MPs being tried for corruption must stand down. This article, introduced in 2017 precisely by JxCat, ERC and the CUP, was then being questioned by JxCat, but both ERC and CUP refused to change it.

Some sources say Borràs may try to avoid standing down by claiming the case against her has "political" and "judicial" motivations, and attempting to get the Commission of the Statute of Deputies to agree. In any case, she would then require Parliament's support, where she would need ERC's and CUP's backing.

En Comú, for starters, have already insisted this Tuesday that Borràs's case should not be linked to the Independence bid. "We are dealing with a case of alleged corruption. [...] In the event that there is a hearing, we must apply article 25.4 and suspend Laura Borràs of her rights and duties as an MP", David Cid insisted. The socialist spokeswoman, Alícia Romero, spoke along the same lines, stating that the controversial article of the regulation is "very clear" and asking pro-independence parties to look for no "excuses". On the other hand, Cs and the PP have requested Borràs's resignation due to the "evidence" of "criminal behaviour" they believe has come to light during the investigation. And all this happened on the same day that Nogay Ndiaye acquired her full condition as a CUP MP in substitution of Pau Juvillà. One chapter closes, and another of greater importance opens: not only because it affects the Speaker, but because it threatens to deepen the division of the independence movement and, more importantly, to compromise the stability of the Catalan Government.