Politics 24/01/2021

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez calls for a vote on 14 February to end a "sterile cycle" in Catalonia

He protests against those who pursue the postponement: "It's useless to keep trying different tricks"

Quim Bertomeu
4 min
The president of the Spanish government and leader of the PSOE, Pedro Sánchez, this Saturday.

BarcelonaWhat does Pedro Sanchez think about the fact that the election will most probably take place on the 14-F despite the worsening of the pandemic? Until now he had avoided taking a clear position on the matter, and decided to have other ministers speak for him, but this Saturday from Barcelona he has given an answer. The President of the Spanish Government does not accept delays and is calling for a vote on February 14. "The most important thing is to close a sterile cycle as soon as possible and to open a new period", he proclaimed. Sánchez does not want to wait until May 30th.

This is what he expressed to the federal committee of the PSOE, which was held in Barcelona with few people, since due to the pandemic the majority of the party leaders did not attend and followed it from home. At first it seemed that Sánchez would not speak about the matter, because the first thing he said was that "a lot of dates had been discussed" and "dates are the least important thing". However, finally, it has become clear that his option, like that of the PSC, is that of 14-F - and that all attempts to change it do not seem right for him. "It is useless to keep trying different tricks. The change in Catalonia has a name and surname, and is called Salvador Illa. It can be postponed but not prevented", the Spanish president proclaimed, who went so far as to speak of the Salvador Illa factor.

Sanchez has also given some hints as to where the socialist campaign will head to, a campaign that until recently was supposed to start in May and will end this Friday morning. One of the keys can be summed up in one word: vaccine. The Socialists will claim to be good managers of the health crisis and they will do so by displaying the vaccination campaign and, if necessary, mixing it with politics when necessary: "The vaccine is Europe in the face of the selfishness of the nationalisms that we have experienced for many years in this country".

The other card that the socialists will play is that they will try to present themselves as the only big left-wing party. This is a message that, in Catalonia, allows them to shoot at Esquerra, their main electoral rival, but it will also allow them to mark a distance at state level with their partner in government, Podemos. "We are the left", Sánchez has proclaimed without any fuss. A left that "persists in pursuing its dreams while advancing towards reality".

The Federal Committee of the PSOE has also been a test of how the political context has changed. Most of the discourse has revolved around the pandemic, and has relegated the Catalan independence bid to a secondary role.

Praise for Iceta

The federal committee has also become the stage on which the Socialists have wanted to praise the "generosity" of Miquel Iceta and his decision to leave the leadership of the PSC's candidacy for the 14-F elections to Minister Salvador Illa. In his speech, the leader of the Catalan Socialists has insisted on holding the vote on the 14-F. "The urgent needs of citizens cannot wait any longer" to have a new government, he has resolved.

Miquel Iceta, the main Secretary of the PSC, on Saturday.

The round of speeches was closed by Illa himself, who did not want to talk about either the election date or his political rivals. He confirmed that he will leave the ministry at the end of the week and promised to give "101%" as a candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat. He has mentioned that he wants to talk a lot about the response to the pandemic - and little about the Catalan independence bid.

All against Illa

Illa's pre-election intervention has generated a barrage of criticism that the president of the PP, Pablo Casado, begun at the presentation of his party's candidacy for the elections. The conservative president has accused the minister of working for the interests of the PSC in the 14-F. Alejandro Fernández was even more forceful. The PP candidate has "congratulated" Illa for being able to "dedicate 101% to two different activities". "I don't have these superhuman powers", he said from the Hotel Miramar in Barcelona, as Ot Serra reports. Fernández wanted to make it clear that if he were in charge of the health of the Spanish people, he would not hold a political election rally. "I would like Illa to reflect on ethics and exemplarity", he added.

The rest of the parties have also put Illa in the spotlight. From the sovereign flank, for example, they have asked him to clarify if he accepts the offer of Vox, which this Friday was willing to invest him as president to prevent the "coup plotters" from ruling. The JxCat candidate, Laura Borràs, said tgat "Fascism is fought against, and the votes of the fascists are not accepted". The candidate of the comuns, Jéssica Albiach, has asked the minister for an answer, and Pere Aragonès, the ERC candidate, has considered that if the question remains in the air it will become evident that there is an "operation of the State" to unseat the independence movement of the Generalitat. The pre-campaign intensifies and, for now, everyone adopts a script against Illa.