Freed ministers turn out for first day of campaigning
Released officials back the republic while opposition sees election as “unique opportunity” to end independence process
The first full day of campaigning began on Tuesday with two of the Catalan ministers released from jail throwing their support behind their colleagues who are still imprisoned, and the president in exile, Carles Puigdemont. The dismissed Catalan ministers, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, who were freed from prison on Monday evening, appeared before the media on Tuesday morning as candidates on Puigdemont’s Together for Catalonia (JxCat) ticket.
Insisting that they will campaign to see the remaining four pro-independence leaders freed from custody, Turull and Rull, who are the fourth and sixth candidates on the JxCat ticket, also said their aims include seeing Puigdemont reinstated as Catalan president along with his entire government. In fact, Puigdemont and the four dismissed ministers in exile with him celebrated the release of the two former ministers in a live video link from Brussels.
“The best government will continue building the republic”
Another freed minister, Carles Mundó, also turned out on Tuesday for the Esquerra party (ERC). With ERC’s main candidate, dismissed vice president Oriol Junqueras, still in prison, Mundó appeared alongside ERC’s secretary general, Marta Rovira. In an event in Barcelona’s former Model prison, Rovira avoided mention of reinstating Puigdemont, limiting herself to a call for support for the independence process: “The best Catalan government will be one that can continue the work and continue building the republic,” she said.
For his part, Mundó hailed “the good work that has been done” and criticized the implementation of Article 155 imposing direct rule on Catalonia, calling it “an anomaly, an imposition and an abuse of the rights of Catalans.” He was also critical of the parties that supported Article 155: “From Cs, PPC or PSC we have not heard a single proposal other than attacks on the determination of the Catalan government and attempts to pass over the good work that the government has done,” he said.
“A unique opportunity to end independence roadmap”
Meanwhile, the main candidate and leader of the Ciutadans (Cs) party, Inés Arrimadas, said that she had noticed that the other unionist parties, PPC and PSC, are “nervous” about the latest polls. Asking the other constitutionalist parties to join her party in “ending” the pro-independence roadmap, Arrimadas called the December 21 election a “unique opportunity” to provide an alternative to the bloc for the Catalan state and attain a “non-nationalist” government in Catalonia. Arrimadas warned that should the pro-independence parties get a majority in parliament, “we will find ourselves in the same situation” and “they will do the same things again.”
"I am the candidate with most options because all the others cancel each other out"
Xavier Domènech · Catalonia in Common's leader
People's Party leader says he would have preferred direct rule to have lasted longer
One of Arrimadas’ potential allies, the leader of the Catalan branch of the People’s Party, Xavier Garcia Albiol, referred to Article 155 on Tuesday. The PPC leader said he would have preferred the imposition of direct rule to have lasted longer, for “a year or a year and a half in order to correct some of the deviations in education and the public media.” According to Albiol, it was Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy who argued for a limited application of 155 followed by immediate elections, so as to secure the support of Cs and the socialists.
“Language more suited to a tavern”
In fact, the leader of the Catalan socialists, Miquel Iceta, criticized Albiol for his tone in launching his campaign. While the PSC party has gone along with Cs and PPC in supporting direct rule, the socialists are refusing to go into government with parties on the right. Talking to reporters on Tuesday, Iceta called Albiol’s words “unworthy of a campaign and more suited to a tavern.” The socialist leader also said that the election campaign should not be “the setting for bloody partisan fighting” but rather to contrast political proposals.
Iceta’s advice is unlikely to be taken by the pro-independence CUP party. Presenting its manifesto on Tuesday, the left-wing party ruled out any attempt at dialogue with the state authorities following the election. Arguing for a unilateral application of the Catalan republic as the only possibility, CUP says it “will not support any Catalan government that attempts to return to a situation of autonomy, or that understands dialogue with the Spanish state as a starting point to submit to such a situation.”
"I am the consensus candidate”
While the various Catalan parties were drawing up their battle lines for the December 21 election, Catalonia in Common’s leader, Xavier Domènech, on Tuesday put himself forward as a possible consensus candidate. "I am the candidate with most options because all the others cancel each other out,” he said. Meanwhile, Domènech went on to reject supporting any presidency that “represents unilateral action or Cs.”