PP leadership candidates take aim at Catalan pro-independence parties
Contenders to head Spanish conservative party want political aim of independence to be illegal and claim there is “apartheid” in Catalonia
Catalonia has become an issue in the contest for the leadership of Spain’s People’s Party (PP). In the race to replace Mariano Rajoy at the head of the party that was ousted from power in June, both candidates to lead PP have spoken out against the independence movement in Catalonia in the past couple of days.
On Tuesday, PP’s head of communications, Pablo Casado, called for parties in favor of independence to be declared illegal, arguing that “Spanish democratic parties should not be able to include illegal goals in their statutes,” in reference to the Catalan pro-independence parties, which openly state secession from Spain as among their main political aims.
According to Casado, the constitutions of European states like France, Portugal or Germany do not allow the existence of pro-independence parties, “and what I do not understand is that a party can openly say in its statutes that it wants to break with the Constitution or the law,” he said, calling for legal modifications to prevent parties from adopting such a posture.
Apartheid accusation “deplorable,” says government
Yet, Casado was not the only PP leadership candidate taking aim at Catalonia this week. Also on Tuesday, and also Wednesday, Spain’s former vice president in the Rajoy executive, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria, claimed there was “apartheid” in Catalonia, an accusation that was rapidly rejected by the Catalan government, which called her comments “deplorable.”
"I do not understand ithat a party can openly say in its statutes that it wants to break with the Constitution or the law"
Pablo Casado · Candidate to lead Spain's People's Party
In an interview with a Spanish radio station, Sáenz de Santamaría criticized Spain’s new president, Pedro Sánchez, for meeting Catalonia’s pro-independence president, Quim Torra, before representatives of unionist parties. “In Catalonia they conduct apartheid,” she said, adding that “Sánchez must first defend the Catalan people who feel Spanish.”
The former vice president also defended her government’s approach to Catalonia’s pro-independence parties. “We did not concede a single power to [Catalan president] Puigdemont, nor did we withdraw a single legal challenge,” she said, adding: “One thing is dialogue with Catalan society, another is making concessions to pro-independence parties.”
However, the Catalan executive rejected Sáenz de Santamaría’s words, particularly her “apartheid” claim. “They are deplorable statements,” said a spokesperson, who also called them “insulting” to those who have suffered apartheid. “These words are not said in ignorance, as she is aware of what is really happening in Catalonia,” said the spokesperson.