The blockade dissipated in Catalonia, but the tension with Madrid is perpetuated
Quim Torra (center) and other Catalan pro-independence leaders applaud while Carles Puigdemont appears on a screen during a meeting of his party in the Parliament of Catalonia, this Friday, May 11 in Barcelona
The Parliament of Catalonia will debate on Saturday the inauguration as the new Catalan president of editor Quim Torra, an independentist faithful to Carles Puigdemont, whose election would overcome the political blockade in the region, but threatens to perpetuate the tension with Madrid.
Impeded by justice and the Spanish government to lead the region again, Puigdemont finally gave in, but does not renounce his political influence or the challenge launched to Madrid with the declaration of independence on October 27.
Therefore, according to analysts, he chooses Torra, a novel in politics, without militancy or loyalty to any political party and supporter, like him, to maintain the pulse with the Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy.
“It is a clear commitment to the hard line, for the sector of independence that has little inclination towards political normalization,” says professor of political science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Oriol Bartomeus.
“He is a very loyal person to Puigdemont and of the hard line within the independence movement (…) A profile that is very close to a vicar”, agrees the analyst Antonio Barroso, from the consultancy Teneo Intelligence.
The president of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, officially appointed him as a candidate on Friday and convened for Saturday the investiture debate that could end on Monday with the election of Torra by a tight majority.
It has 66 favorable votes and 65 against the opposition, but it must ensure the abstention of the four deputies of the far-left pro-independence Popular Party Candidacy, which will decide its position this weekend.
The profile of Torra could serve to convince this small radical party, which defended the investiture of Puigdemont, but angered the opposition, which especially reproached him for a series of old offensive tweets against the Spanish for which he had to ask apologies
The regional deputy of Junts per Catalunya Quim Torra, in the Catalan Parliament on May 11, 2018 in Barcelona
“He is the most radical candidate Puigdemont could find and the only one who has voluntarily accepted to be his puppet,” said Inés Arrimadas, the leader of the center-right Citizens party, the most voted in the region. “They want more control, more conflict,” he lamented.
If it manages to be invested, Catalonia would recover its government after months of political blockade and with its administration controlled by the Spanish government since it ceased President Puigdemont and his cabinet after the failed secession.
– Commitment to the republic –
Just two weeks after the deadline to call a new election if there was no president, on May 22, Puigdemont was convinced to give way but not before marking the way to his successor of a “provisional” nature, he said.
In his speech, he asked to respect the mandate of the illegal referendum on October 1, in which two million Catalans on a census of 5.5 voted for independence, and continue to build the republic.
In an interview with the Catalan public television station TV3, Torra promised to restore the policies and organisms suppressed by the Spanish government when the region intervened and launch a constituent process to start drafting the future Catalan constitution.
Asked if he will disobey Madrid, he replied that he only considers “the possibility of obeying what the Parliament of Catalonia decides”.
And while Torra is in charge of the “interior governance”, Puigdemont will act as “president in exile” at the head of the Council of the Republic, a body not contemplated in Catalan legislation that must be coordinated with the official government.
From Madrid, which claimed for weeks the election of a candidate without legal causes, they launched their first warning. “If you break the law, the government will return to act exactly the same,” intervened regional administration, warned the spokesman spokesman of the central executive, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo.
The failure of the unilateral strategy used in October and the harsh judicial consequences, with 25 leaders processed, nine imprisoned and seven out of the country, augured a period of moderation in the independence camp.
But the absolute separatist majority in the December elections convened by Rajoy and Puigdemont’s triumph as the first separatist force convinced the toughest sector to return the “legitimate president” of Catalonia to his position, even if that meant extending the blockade.
They tried it with him and also with two imprisoned companions of rows, but the justice prevented it.
They even pushed for a legal reform so that they could govern from Germany, where a process of extradition to Spain is pending, but it was suspended by the Constitutional Court after an appeal from Madrid.