Friday, January 28

Aragonès’ failed investiture reveals the program gap between ERC and Junts | Catalonia

Second plenary session of the investiture of Pere Aragones as President of the Generalitat of Catalonia.
Second plenary session of the investiture of Pere Aragones as President of the Generalitat of Catalonia.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI / EL PAÍS

Yes but no. Junts per Catalunya yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to appoint the republican Pere Aragonès president of the Generalitat but abstained again in the second vote of the investiture debate in the Parliament. The speech of the candidate for president, with references to Carles Puigdemont but also making it clear that he will not allow “tutelage” in the Government, did not convince the ranks of the Junts. The parties will continue to negotiate, but accept that there will be no movement until after Easter. The debate allowed programmatic differences to emerge, such as basic income, which will be difficult to fit to satisfy everyone.

Those who unite them were already known from the campaign: the commitment to the universalization of education from 0 to 3 years; the creation of a Climate Action department or a firm commitment to increase investment in Health. And perhaps the disagreements as well, although yesterday they were particularly portrayed. The CUP deputy, Eulàlia Reguant, came out to defend the content of her agreement with ERC and thanks to which Aragonès obtained 42 votes, 33 from her party and nine from the anti-capitalists, far from the necessary majority of 68. “Basic income universal is not touched, “he warned the Junts spokeswoman, Gemma Geis, who in her turn to speak had described the pact between the two leftist formations as” sterile “.

“We feel very far from this country project that they have agreed to,” Geis added. The Junts deputy expressed her concern about the budgetary impact of that income. The agreement between Republicans and anti-capitalists establishes a pilot plan, in 2022, to give 730 euros to each citizen living in Catalonia – it would start with “the most vulnerable age groups” – to guarantee access to basic goods. Geis, quoting the economist Germà Bel, said that about 4.2 billion euros would be needed. Other experts raise the cost to 8,000 million.

Reguant even corrected her fellow deputy, who referred to the benefit she proposes as “guaranteed income.” It is not a trivial detail. This last category defines an amount payable only to those who do not reach an income level that is determined as sufficient by the Administration. In other words, an abyss in the conception of society between the two pro-independence blocs. A debate, by the way, that was also held in 2016 in Junts pel Sí but that was never resolved.

Those of Puigdemont also see a crusade against the concerted school in Catalonia, a point traditionally defended by the political space of the extinct Convergència. Aragonès referred to differences of “nuance” to close the agreement, but the gap is still considerable, at least ideologically.

Geis said that the agreement with the CUP does not make them assume any commitment and the anti-capitalists are clear that it is the ERC window they will have to go to in case of non-compliance. Junts, in addition, regrets that commitments are acquired in which they do not believe and that, without having the portfolios distributed, they could fall into their territory.

Progress in the Government plan is few —which has transcended the wish list of each formation— and there is still a lack of responsibility for the distribution of responsibilities to be addressed. Within the “fringes” is also the section of the independence roadmap. The reservations with which the negotiations have been carried out prevent us from knowing the level of progress or stagnation.

Aragonès deliberately mentioned Puigdemont and Junts in his speech – one of the criticisms on Friday, in the first vote, was the least allusion to the 33 deputies he needs – and he vindicated the coordination of the independence movement to achieve the goal of the republic. After weeks of being in the center of the hurricane, the ERC leader stated that the Consell de la República, the private entity that Puigdemont pilots from Brussels, has a role in that design of the roadmap.

“This coordination will only be possible if it recognizes all the spaces, but also if it values ​​the leadership of the institutions of Catalonia,” said Aragonès. And a warning: the Parliament and the Government “have a non-delegable responsibility.” The balance between everything, he added, requires “flexibility and generosity”, but “without substitutions or tutelage.” Aragonès, therefore, wants to have control of the Government’s strategy despite knowing that it will have to coordinate with its partners from the Junts and the CUP when it gets support for the investiture.

A judgment of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia on linguistic immersion served yesterday as ammunition for Junts to insist on the need for joint action in the Congress of all the pro-independence deputies. Geis recalled that ERC had supposedly “shielded” the immersion in the Cortes with an agreement with the Government. ERC does not want to give up its leeway. Squaring the circle in this plane is very difficult.

Republicans believe that the speech of their eventual partners showed that the strategy of lengthening the formation of the Executive responds only to a commitment to wear and tear. And to the adjustment of accounts of the past: the non-telematic investiture of Puigdemont (the then president of the Chamber, Roger Torrent, discarded it and thus complied with the judicial prohibition) or the negative vote of the CUP so that, in 2018, former councilor Jordi Turull went to preventive prison as president of the Generalitat.

CUP Warning

Junts insists that the inauguration will come when the agreement is ready and that there is no rush. Not even the fourth wave of the coronavirus knocking on the door of Catalonia (yesterday there were 411 patients hospitalized in ICUs and experts warn of a rise in infections after the relaxation, 15 days ago, of protection measures) seems to challenge the political forces to streamline conversations. Geis put as an example yesterday that the historic pact with Endesa to forgive the debt that 35,000 families carry since 2015 was sealed the day before yesterday with an acting Executive. “The pressure for the interim, with examples of life like that agreement, decline and therefore allow us to forge this stable agreement,” said the spokeswoman for Junts.

In the formation chaired by Puigdemont, they also recall that the electoral plan of the Generalitat and that it overthrew justice proposed the elections for May 30. They also look around and remember how long it takes for governments to form in Belgium or Germany. That does not imply that they do not look at the calendar. Dates designated as Sant Jordi (April 23) or April 14 (anniversary of the proclamation of the Second Republic) are observed as possible culmination. On May 26, if there is no president, the Parliament is dissolved and new elections are called.

Aragonès rejoiced yesterday reminding the socialist Salvador Illa that now he cannot take the step. Laura Borràs will have to call a new round of contacts. “Today I will have more votes than you can,” he snapped at the socialist. More arguments for calm. Something that only broke a warning from the anti-capitalist Eulàlia Reguant: “This may be the legislature of a new attack with the State, it now depends on ERC and the Junts that is not the legislature of the people.”

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