Photo by Johannes Schwaerzler on Unsplash
4th April 2018
There’s a famous picture of the Valencian Parliament where all PP politicians indicted or convicted in the Gürtel corruption case are marked with circles. A similar exercise could be performed if political leaders from Junts per Catalunya (JxCAT), ERC and CUP could be gathered for a picture. In some cases, the corruption would be the same (aside from rebellion or disobedience): embezzlement of public funds and willful neglect of duty. But the secessionist faction already took its parliament picture, placing yellow ribbons in the empty seats of those representatives who are either in jail or fled the country. They are the same ones that passed an illegal referendum act with a half-empty regional parliament last September.
The secessionist movement is now leaderless. As Álex Tort explains in La Vanguardia, “the structure set up in the House of the Republic in Waterloo [where Mr. Puigdemont was staying] is useless when Mr. Puigdemont is in a German jail, and Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, who used to run the negotiations, in Estremera [a Spanish prison – TN]”. ERC is in a similar predicament: Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva and Carme Forcadell are in prison, Marta Rovira is in Switzerland and Toni Comín is in Brussels. Meanwhile, the CUP, that went from 10 to 4 parliaments seats in the last election, abstains, demands that the [Catalan] Republic become real and will only vote Mr. Puigdemont as president.
JxCAT persists in its defense of Mr. Puigdemont, whom they consider the legitimate president. But there is no consistent narrative and Mr. Puigdemont can not lead the party from Belgium anymore, as he intended, by means of Skype, Whatsapp and boastful performances in Brussels to show he is in command. And, nonetheless, the regional parliament board has voted to allow the former president, now jailed in Germany, to give a proxy vote to Mrs. Elsa Artadi, a JxCAT member of the regional parliament. The board understands that, given that he’s not currently voluntarily absent but under arrest, he should be afforded that option, also given to other jailed secessionists. The party is Mr. Puigdemont’s own fiefdom, and when it’s not acting as the former president’s law firm, it’s simply a rudderless vessel led by third-rate politicians that find themselves under the spotlight because the rest are either in jail or fled. The secessionist movement has an enormous ability for leadership renewal: there is always someone new willing to take one for the team.
ERC is in a similar situation, but they seek to form a government now, and they flirt with PSC and Catalunya en Comú. The new star in Esquerra (ERC) is Pere Aragonès, a technocrat that used to negotiate about the Regional Liquidity Fund (FLA) with the state and now tries to reach agreements with the government. He is the hope of the pragmatists within the secessionist camp. His conciliatory style is appreciated, generally because he doesn’t make calls for the people’s sovereignty or rebellion. Aragonès makes much-needed appeals for calm, but he also uses the classic “tactical” secessionist rule-book: coup d’etats are a bad approach not because they are undemocratic but because they are not effective for the secession strategy.
Meanwhile, PSC and Catalunya en Comú, seek to reach agreements and negotiate. Xavier Doménech recently proposed a unity government, an administration made of politically unaffiliated members “that gathers the different Catalanist sensitivities, those of progressive Catalanism and democrats in general”. Forgetfulness and peace are frequently preferable to finger pointing and resentment in order to move forward. Nevertheless, there are attitudes that can only defined as equidistant that move to embarrassment. In an article for El Periódico, Secretary General of PSE Idoia Mendia writes that “social problems, the challenges of the future, will be solved neither by independence nor by the indisoluble unity of the Spanish nation”. It is true: standing still in defense of Spain’s unity won’t solve the Catalan problem. But Mendia seems to think that the unity of Spain is an abstract concept, a whim, a fixation, something that only concerns centralists and paleoconservatives, and not a way of defending the rights and liberties of the citizenry when a minitory tried to void them.
The passage of the referendum act in Catalonia in September 2017 meant the derogation of the Spanish Constitution in Catalonia. For months, the rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution were suspended, subject to the arbitrary action of Catalan institutions. Article 155 [Of the Spanish Constitution, suspending regional self-government -TN] was invoked to restore legality. But there’s a discourse that lays out the problem of secessionism as if one between to equal sides, with their obsessions and resentments, confronted by their abstract trifles and willing to take them as far as they will go. Negotiation is essential, but it can not rest upon false narratives.