The threat of a deadlock hovers over the post-electoral horizon

Sabater's doubts with Borràs add even more uncertainty to post-electoral pacts

4 min
The empty chamber during the last legislature.

BarcelonaCatalonia has become accustomed in recent years to agonising investiture debates. Until 2012 - when Artur Mas was re-elected as president of the Generalitat thanks to the votes of the ERC -, the election of the new head of the government by Parliament had been practically a formality, but since 2015 - when, faced with the refusal of the CUP, Mas himself had to take a step aside in extremis to avoid the repetition of the elections - it has become a real headache. Now, when we have not yet reached the halfway point of the campaign, the crossed vetoes between formations already anticipate that after 14-F the arithmetic can draw another demonic scenario. The threat of a deadlock already hovers over the post-electoral horizon.

Yesterday's campaign day added even more uncertainty about what may happen in the Catalan chamber after the elections. The candidate of the CUP, Dolors Sabater, shook the board when, early in the morning, in an interview to La 2 and Radio 4 radio station, said that the anticapitalists would not invest the president of JxCat, Laura Borràs, while she is "suspicious of corruption". She was referring to the case in the Supreme Court against the spokeswoman of Junts in Congress, for allegedly hiring people without going through the necessary public hiring process, when she was at the head of the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes (ILC) (the Catalan language and culture governmental institution).

Sabater's argument that "suspicions of corruption would have to be cleared up before anyone could be enabled to govern the country" generated discomfort in the CUP, which immediately sent a statement to the media clarifying the words of the candidate and stating that, although the anti-capitalists "have demonstrated their commitment against corruption", they have also demonstrated "their solidarity against repression and state causes". Sabater herself rectified hours later and, in an act of the party, pointed out that the only "veto" of the cuperos is "to a government of 155 and to continue with the paralysis of the current Government of these last three years".

Remembering the Turull case

The anticapitalists, who in recent years have seen how prominent voices of the formation admitted that it was a mistake to block the investiture of Jordi Turull the day before Judge Pablo Llarena sent him to prison, do not want to appear now as a blocking agent, despite the fact that from the ranks of ERC and JxCat it is privately admitted that if the investiture remains in the hands of the cuperos it will not be easy to bring it forward. The other pro-independence actor that aspires to be key to forming a majority, PDECat, is not represented in the polls for now. Nor has the broad government proposed by Pere Aragonès with JxCat, the CUP, the PDECat and the comuns been very well received by anyone.

For this reason, both ERC and JxCat admit that a good part of the options of uncorking the investiture quickly pass by adding up, between both of them, 68 MPs. Even so, neither knows for sure that the investiture would be resolved soon. The strategic differences and the constant tripping between the two have weighed down the last government and have done nothing but widen during the campaign. So far, JxCat has not guaranteed that it would give its votes to ERC in case of victory of the Republicans and, although Pere Aragonès did say that they would support JxCat in case of being behind those of Carles Puigdemont, the doubts about the will of Junts to reactivate the DUI (unilateral declaration of independence) and the profile of some of its candidates mean that Borràs does not know for sure if she will become president, even if both parties have enough MPs.

Yesterday, in an interview on La Sexta TV channel, the leader of ERC, Oriol Junqueras, did not take a position on whether they would vote for Borràs despite the open case in the Supreme Court, but did stress that if the president of Junts would have been an ERC militant, she could not have been a candidate for the presidency: "Whenever ERC has been in a situation of this type, it has asked its militant, whoever he or she was, to renounce to being a candidate", he said. A comment that reopened the wounds between partners in government and that annoyed the ex president of the Generalitat, Quim Torra, who accused the leader of the Republicans of "not maintaining anti-repressive solidarity" in the case of Borràs.

Beyond clouding the scenario of the post-electoral pacts, Sabater's words were a blow to the JxCat candidate, because they put on the table an issue that until now had only appeared in the campaign during Sunday's debate on TVE, when the candidate of Ciudadanos, Carlos Carrizosa, threw in Borràs' face the "cases of corruption", something that she, visibly angry, reproached him when the debate was over. Yesterday, when in Els matins of TV3 they asked Borràs about the words of the candidate of the CUP, she responded by passing the ball to the cuperos: "The CUP will have to take their decisions, if it is next to the Spanish injustice or to Catalan democracy", she said.

An impossible tripartite?

Beyond the difficulties to articulate a pro-independence majority, the rest of the options on the table do not seem to be able to impose themselves in an investiture debate. The possibility of a tripartite - revived by JxCat, the PP and Cs in the shape of scarecrow, and by the comuns in the shape of willingness - is not viable in view of the public statements of ERC and PSC, which for now rule out not only governing together but also supporting each other. Even so, yesterday the candidate of the comuns, Jéssica Albiach, insisted on the idea and also opened the door to a minority government of ERC and the comuns that would get external support from the socialists, an extreme they had ruled out the day before because "a strong Government" is needed.

Even within the constitutionalist bloc - to which no poll gives any options of achieving a majority - there is no agreement on whether to invest a candidate. The favorite within this camp, according to all the polls, is the head of the PSC list, Salvador Illa, but yesterday the leader of the PP in Catalonia, Alejandro Fernandez, said he would not give him his votes and that, in case of being able to articulate a majority against independence, he would demand to elect "a consensus candidate". Also Vox, which in all probability will enter the Catalan chamber, stressed its change of criterion and reaffirmed that it will not give its votes to Illa, although it offered them to him a few days ago.

The shadow of the blockade hovers over the day after the elections, although the vote has not yet been cast.