Prominent Socialist leader Ernest Maragall to run with the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC)
The well-known former member of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) Ernest Maragall, who quit the organisation in October 2012 because of its lack of commitment to Catalonia’s self-determination, joins the candidate list of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) for the next European Parliament Elections to run in second place. Ernest Maragall has been one of the most prominent members of the PSC, occupying key positions in Barcelona Town Hall and the Catalan Government over three decades. He formed a political tandem with his brother Pasqual Maragall, who was President of Catalonia between 2003 and 2006 and led the urban transformation of Barcelona as the city Mayor between 1982 and 1997. In fact, Catalan politics during the last 3 decades cannot be understood without the Maragall brothers, who were also founding members of the PSC back in 1977.
Barcelona (ACN).- The well-known former member of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) Ernest Maragall, who quit the organisation in October 2012 because of its lack of commitment to Catalonia’s self-determination, joins the candidate list of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) for the next European Parliament Elections. Ernest Maragall has been one of the most prominent members of the PSC, occupying key positions in Barcelona Town Hall and the Catalan Government over three decades. He is the brother of Pasqual Maragall - former President of Catalonia (2003-2006) and Mayor of Barcelona (1982-1997) - and grandson of one of the main Catalan poets, Joan Maragall. The Maragall brothers formed a political tandem, in which Ernest occupied secondary positions, effectively implementing Pasqual’s plans. However, even political rivals recognise Ernest’s bright intelligence, efficient rigour and working capacity. When Ernest Maragall quit the Socialists he founded a new Social-Democrat party, ‘Nova Esquerra Catalana’ (NEC), which supports Catalonia’s right to self-determination and even independence, if a majority of Catalans decides so. On Monday evening it was announced that Maragall will run in second position on the ERC list for the next European Elections. On Tuesday morning, the ERC and NEC signed a “cooperation agreement”, which will go beyond May’s electoral call. In fact, the ERC is trying to attract further former members of the PSC and related political organisations in an attempt to become the flagship of Social-Democracy in Catalonia.
The ERC President, Oriol Junqueras, and Maragall – who chairs the NEC – characterised the move as “a natural pact”, since both organisations are Social-Democratic and support Catalonia’s self-determination and independence. In fact, they both emphasised the challenge to unite the left-wing forces. “There has not been much doubt about it. We did not have to make a choice. We have arrived here through a natural process, as a river going to the sea”, said Maragall.
An agreement going beyond the next elections
Junqueras stressed that ERC’s will be the only candidature exclusively “focused on Catalonia” in the next European elections. In addition, he stated that the will of the ERC and NEC is to build “a civic list”, “with great presence of independents”. In fact, the candidature is led by the philosopher and University of Girona Chair Josep Maria Terricabras.
However, Junqueras emphasised that the agreement with NEC goes beyond the European Elections. “We are convinced that this is a project which is not merely prompted by the upcoming European elections, but which is aiming to have continuity, [to build] a stable cooperation that can also be transferred to a municipal level, the Parliament of Catalonia and, particularly, to the referendum on the 9th of November”, he stated.
Maragall: independence is “the most intelligent way out” in the current circumstances
During the signature of the agreement, Maragall qualified independence as “the most intelligent way out” in the current political circumstances. He also emphasised that the active exercise of Catalonia’s right to self-determination was launched in 2003 by Pasqual Maragall and Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, who was leading the ERC back then, when they started to run the Catalan Government. In Catalan politics, it is significant news that a veteran and prominent person such as Ernest Maragall, who had stood for a Federal Spain during his entire career and was a key person within the PSC, is now advocating independence and forging an alliance with the ERC.
Ernest Maragall, a pillar of the PSC and Catalan politics
In fact, Catalan politics particularly from the mid-1990s cannot be understood without Ernest Maragall. He occupied civil servant positions in Barcelona’s municipality during the 1980s, but in the 1990s he started to hold political positions in the city’s government. His brother Pasqual was the Mayor and led the urban transformation of Barcelona during the Olympics. However, Ernest held increasing responsibilities in his own right, being recognised as one of the municipality’s main brains. His weight in the local government grew when Pasqual quit in 1997 and he started to run the municipal finances and supervise all the organisational decisions.
In fact, during his entire career, Ernest has held back his public profile in order not to overshadow his older brother and his leadership. When Pasqual Maragall became the President of the Catalan Government in December 2003, he asked his brother to help him running the Executive’s daily work. Ernest became the Government’s Secretary, an essential position that coordinates and supervises all the daily decisions as well as the main policies. Once again, the popular personality and charisma of his brother overshadowed his public profile.
Catalan Minister for Education
When José Montilla managed to take full control of the PSC and got rid of Pasqual Maragall from the party leadership and the Catalan Presidency in 2006, Ernest’s own profile became more obvious. In 2007, Pasqual retired from active politics, announced that he suffered from Alzheimer’s and focused his energies on fighting this illness, launching an international foundation to lead research in this field. Meanwhile, Ernest became the Catalan Minister for Education in the new Executive, occupying the position until 2010. In this capacity he implemented Catalonia’s National Pact for Education, improved school facilities and launched a modernisation plan to make pupils use computers in their everyday class work.
However, Ernest’s relations with the party leadership were increasingly tense after his brother was pushed aside. First Pasqual quit the PSC and later it was Ernest’s turn, in October 2012. In addition, he did not share the evolution of the party, from an organisational and ideological point of view. The PSC has been totally controlled by the party leadership and organisational bodies, eliminating internal debate and the participation of members. Ernest tried to fight this but ultimately gave up. In addition, the party leadership is not committed to Catalonia’s right to self-determination, which was one of the founding ideas of the organisation back in1977, and is totally opposed to independence.
Both Maragall brothers quit the PSC
Since the Spanish Constitutional ruling against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy in 2010, Catalan citizens are shifting towards pro-independence stances, since they are giving up in their attempts to try finding a better accommodation for Catalonia within Spain. Ernest Maragall was an essential person in the drafting of the Statute and its approval in 2006 by the Spanish Parliament and the Catalan people through a binding referendum. He, along with a majority of people in Catalonia, has reached the conclusion that Spain does not want to be changed and become a fully pluri-national state, embracing all the cultures and languages as their own, working for Catalonia’s economic, social and cultural development and respecting its own self-government. In a way, Ernest Maragall’s change symbolises that of an important section of the Catalan intellectual and political establishment.