The second defeat of 155

Catalan MonitorNews Roundup

Photo: Inés Arrimadas, in the Catalan parliament (Credit: Vilaweb)

By Pere Martí

17th January, 2018

Constituting the board of the Parliament of Catalonia

The first defeat of the bloc of parties that supported the application of article 155 was the autonomic elections of December 21st, convened by Mariano Rajoy. That day, after an unprecedented judicial and political offensive, the independentists revalidated their absolute majority, with seventy seats, and the unionists remained at fifty-seven. Sadly they did not admit defeat and continued to act as if nothing had happened, applying repressive policies and levelling even harsher policies against independentist leaders whilst maintaining the clamp-down on self-government.

The second defeat took place during today’s plenary session held to constitute the parliament and elect a speaker, during which the independence majority made itself known, as did the attempts by the 155 bloc to take them down. The unionists were served a reality check, as they watched, vote by vote, as Roger Torrent was elected speaker of the chamber, and the board held on to a pro-independence majority, despite the absence of eight deputies, imprisoned, or exiled. The delegation of the votes of the deputies Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez and Quim Forn, who are in prison, was key. This delegation of votes, which was authorized by Judge Llarena, whivh Arrimadas tried to challenge unfruitfully, because Ernest Maragall, presiding, as the ranking member, dispatched her challenge without any difficulty. Iceta supported the delegation of the vote, in a gesture that seemed to show a distancing from the 155 bloc but the gesture was over when the PSC fell back into line and voted for the Ciutadans party candidate José María Espejo-Saavedra, sitting next to the PP.

The tone of the session was relatively calm despite the exceptional circumstances of a chamber filled with yellow bows to emphasise the absence of the president of the Generalitat and the rest of the government’s members. Ernest Maragall took it upon himself to remind everyone of the situation in which we find ourselves, in a first high-voltage speech. The protesting tone of Maragall was in stark contrast with the intentionally institutional tone of Torrent, almost as if their roles had been pre-cast. The new speaker, aware that from now on he will be in the sights of Spanish justice, spoke in measured words. He made no reference to a new Republic, which irritated the CUP, but spoke energetically about social policy and equality. An equality that Elisenda Alamany reproached was not reflected in the new board’s gender split, despite the candidate from Catalonia in Common, who did not obtain enough votes, being a man, Joan Josep Nuet.

The aim of the independence majority was to regain control of the parliament with the utmost normality and for that reason, Together for Catalonia and ERC only requested that votes be delegated for the three prisoners, which Judge Llarena authorized, and not for those in exile, which would have motivated the government to refer the case to the Tribual Constitucional beforehand. Once they reached their goal of regaining control, they will now pave the way for the inauguration of Carles Puigdemont, with another argument: why can one vote from prison and not from Brussels? We’ll find the answer out, in 10 days.

More international pressure

As the days go by, the pressure on Mariano Rajoy grows to hold discussions with the future Catalan government. While the EU remains officially silent, the prime minister of a member state, Ireland, formally requested, via the European parliament, for Rajoy to negotiate with the future Catalan executive, because dialogue is the only solution. The statement, made after a question from the MEP of the ERC Jordi Solé, is of importance, because he is a prime minister and shows that there can be differences between the official position of the Commission, controlled by Spain, and the opinions of the leaders of each country, where there is more diversity. Another example was the statement by the chairman of the German Circle of Executives, in Barcelona, Albert Peters, who this week has not only expressed himself in favor of a negotiation, but has asked Rajoy to consider accepting a remote investiture of Carles Puigdemont. This is one of the most influential interest groups in Catalonia, made up of German and Austrian entrepreneurs.

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