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New Government in Catalonia: Stalled Talks with Madrid, Jailed Leaders and A Willingness to Pardon Them That Has Enraged the Right

Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

On Monday, Pere Aragonès of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) became the 132nd president of the Catalan Government with the support of the other two pro-independence parties, the conservative Junts Per Catalunya (JxCat) and the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP). He received the support of 74 MPs, with 61 votes against.

Aragonès had been acting president since September 2020 after Quim Torra of Together for Catalonia (Junts) was forced to step down by the courts for disobedience regarding electoral legislation violations. 

Although Salvador Illa, former Ministry of Health for the current PSOE-UP coalition government and leader of the PSC, the Catalan branch of the statewide PSOE, won the regional elections held on February 14, he did not gain enough votes to form a government. 

The three parties in the separatist bloc, which together would gain a working majority in the regional parliament, entered negotiations with a shared agenda —self-determination, the amnesty for the organizers of the banned 2017 referendum — condemned to between nine to 13 years in prison in 2019 — and the celebration of a second, legal ballot on independence, with or without the agreement of the central government. 

However, the path to independence will not interfere with the government tasks. It will be overlooked by the pro-independence civil society groups Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural, as well as by the Council for the Republic, a government-in-exile led by the former regional premier and Junts party leader Carles Puigdemont. 

After three months locked in tense negotiations over how to proceed with the separatist process —ERC wants to resume talks with the central government while JxCat supports the unilateral way—, they finally reached an agreement, just a few days short of the end of the legal period allowed to form a government before calling a second election. 

During the investiture session on Monday, Aragonès said: “Today we begin a new era, a new Catalan government begins to walk, the one of this legislature, which must be nonconformist, innovative, transformative, imaginative, creative, republican.” And continued: “We aim to serve the country and its people in the best way possible, to govern for everyone and progress toward the common aim of an independent Catalan Republic.” 

Stalled Talks with Madrid and Pardons to Jailed Leaders

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is ready to resume talks to resolve the ongoing political conflict in Catalonia, which have proved unproductive for the past couple of years. One way Sánchez wants to unlock the situation is by granting pardon to the nine political leaders jailed in connection with the 2017 breakaway bid. But the stakes are against him. 

The Catalan leaders want full amnesty and self-determination, a price no ruling politician in Spain would ever pay. Sánchez is willing to grant pardon rather than full amnesty, a measure that would remove the crime from the record. The pardon, by contrast, would get the leaders out of jail.

But on Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected clemency because there were no reasons of justice, equity, or public usefulness to support it and highlighted the fact that none of the nine leaders showed “evidence or indication of remorse”. An earlier report by prosecutors also opposed the move, leaving the government in a tight spot. 

Pedro Sánchez was accused by the opposition at the Congress of Deputies on Wednesday of “betrayal”, “humiliation”, and “revenge”. To what Sánchez replied: “The spirit of the Spanish Constitution includes both punishment and concord. There is a time for punishment and a time for concord.”

Meanwhile, several high-ranking politicians expressed their support to the pardons, including Basque regional premier Iñigo Urkullu, who said they would be “the best-justified” pardons of all those granted by a Spanish government in the last 40 year, Barcelona Mayoress Ada Colau, and former PM of the PSOE José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. 

But opposition to granting pardons is strong. Among the ranks of the ruling party PSOE, Emiliano García-Page, regional premier of Castilla-La Mancha, said it “would not help bring the problem of Catalonia into focus” and that “chances are so high that it would be sterile”. Former PM 

The right-wing parties are outraged at the possibility the jailed Catalan leaders get the pardons and see the move as the “political price” Pedro Sánchez must pay for remaining in power, which in many instances is possible thanks to the support in parliament of separatist parties. 

The right-wing People’s Party, the centre-right Ciudadanos, and the far-right Vox party have joined forces to organize a rally at Madrid’s Plaza de Colon to protest the pardons. 

With a political environment set to raise the temperatures in the coming weeks, we should brace ourselves for a hot, suffocating summer.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published on Fridays to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go.
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Past Newsletters

On Monday, Pere Aragonès of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) became the 132nd president of the Catalan Government with the support of the other two pro-independence parties, the conservative Junts Per Catalunya (JxCat) and the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP). He received the support of 74 MPs, with 61 votes against.

Aragonès had been acting president since September 2020 after Quim Torra of Together for Catalonia (Junts) was forced to step down by the courts for disobedience regarding electoral legislation violations. 

Although Salvador Illa, former Ministry of Health for the current PSOE-UP coalition government and leader of the PSC, the Catalan branch of the statewide PSOE, won the regional elections held on February 14, he did not gain enough votes to form a government. 

The three parties in the separatist bloc, which together would gain a working majority in the regional parliament, entered negotiations with a shared agenda —self-determination, the amnesty for the organizers of the banned 2017 referendum — condemned to between nine to 13 years in prison in 2019 — and the celebration of a second, legal ballot on independence, with or without the agreement of the central government. 

However, the path to independence will not interfere with the government tasks. It will be overlooked by the pro-independence civil society groups Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural, as well as by the Council for the Republic, a government-in-exile led by the former regional premier and Junts party leader Carles Puigdemont. 

After three months locked in tense negotiations over how to proceed with the separatist process —ERC wants to resume talks with the central government while JxCat supports the unilateral way—, they finally reached an agreement, just a few days short of the end of the legal period allowed to form a government before calling a second election. 

During the investiture session on Monday, Aragonès said: “Today we begin a new era, a new Catalan government begins to walk, the one of this legislature, which must be nonconformist, innovative, transformative, imaginative, creative, republican.” And continued: “We aim to serve the country and its people in the best way possible, to govern for everyone and progress toward the common aim of an independent Catalan Republic.” 

Stalled Talks with Madrid and Pardons to Jailed Leaders

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is ready to resume talks to resolve the ongoing political conflict in Catalonia, which have proved unproductive for the past couple of years. One way Sánchez wants to unlock the situation is by granting pardon to the nine political leaders jailed in connection with the 2017 breakaway bid. But the stakes are against him. 

The Catalan leaders want full amnesty and self-determination, a price no ruling politician in Spain would ever pay. Sánchez is willing to grant pardon rather than full amnesty, a measure that would remove the crime from the record. The pardon, by contrast, would get the leaders out of jail.

But on Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected clemency because there were no reasons of justice, equity, or public usefulness to support it and highlighted the fact that none of the nine leaders showed “evidence or indication of remorse”. An earlier report by prosecutors also opposed the move, leaving the government in a tight spot. 

Pedro Sánchez was accused by the opposition at the Congress of Deputies on Wednesday of “betrayal”, “humiliation”, and “revenge”. To what Sánchez replied: “The spirit of the Spanish Constitution includes both punishment and concord. There is a time for punishment and a time for concord.”

Meanwhile, several high-ranking politicians expressed their support to the pardons, including Basque regional premier Iñigo Urkullu, who said they would be “the best-justified” pardons of all those granted by a Spanish government in the last 40 year, Barcelona Mayoress Ada Colau, and former PM of the PSOE José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. 

But opposition to granting pardons is strong. Among the ranks of the ruling party PSOE, Emiliano García-Page, regional premier of Castilla-La Mancha, said it “would not help bring the problem of Catalonia into focus” and that “chances are so high that it would be sterile”. Former PM 

The right-wing parties are outraged at the possibility the jailed Catalan leaders get the pardons and see the move as the “political price” Pedro Sánchez must pay for remaining in power, which in many instances is possible thanks to the support in parliament of separatist parties. 

The right-wing People’s Party, the centre-right Ciudadanos, and the far-right Vox party have joined forces to organize a rally at Madrid’s Plaza de Colon to protest the pardons. 

With a political environment set to raise the temperatures in the coming weeks, we should brace ourselves for a hot, suffocating summer.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,