Major parties in Catalonia and Spain change leadership: here’s why it matters
Puigdemont takes over pro-independence PDeCAT while Pablo Casado, a hardliner, replaces Rajoy as Spain’s People’s Party head
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont secured control of the pro-independence PDeCAT party in the convention to appoint a new leadership last weekend, while the People’s Party (PP) elected Pablo Casado, a hardliner, to replace Mariano Rajoy as the head of the opposition in Spain.
Both parties are likely to double down pressure against president Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist leader who rallied support from Catalan and Basque parties to oust Rajoy following a corruption scandal—yet they will do so in opposite directions.
Casado has criticized Sánchez for engaging in talks with the pro-independence government in Catalonia. He pledged to “conquer back Catalonia" while vindicating “one Spain,” and warned that he will “make it so that PP is respected.”
PDeCAT elected as party head David Bonvehí, who run in a joint ticket with Míriam Nogueras, now the party’s vice president. Their candidacy included people close to Puigdemont and the former party head, Marta Pascal.
In an interview on Catalan radio, Nogueras, warned Sánchez that from now on it will be harder for him to get the support of her party in the Spanish parliament.
With only a quarter of the chamber’s MPs, the Socialists are virtually dependent on left-wing Podemos as well as Basque and Catalan pro-independence parties to put forward their political agenda.
Exiled in Germany, where a court rejected extraditing him to Spain for the crime of rebellion, Puigdemont is launching Crida Nacional per la República (National Call for the Republic), a new political platform which aims to bring together pro-independence parties.
PDeCAT members voted in favor of joining Puigdemont’s project and making the independence of Catalonia effective “as soon as possible.”
Marta Pascal, the former party leader, resigned alleging that she did not have the support of Puigdemont. She was instrumental in securing PDeCAT’s votes in the motion of no confidence against Rajoy.
When stepping down, Rajoy did not choose a successor. His right-hand woman in the government, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, also a candidate to lead the party, was defeated by Casado who gained 58% of the vote compared to her 42%.
Casado’s victory over Santamaría can be seen as an attempt to stop the rise of Ciutadans, the largest unionist party in Catalonia and surging in polls all across Spain while pledging a hard line against pro-independence parties.