President sacks highest-ranking cabinet member of coalition partner, vice president Puigneró
Deep crisis between government allies as Junts calls dismissal "historic mistake" and considers quitting executive
The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, has sacked vice president Jordi Puigneró, the highest-ranking cabinet member of his government's junior partner, Junts per Catalunya.
In a statement made at 11.15pm on Wednesday and after six hours of meetings between him and the rest of the government, as well as with Junts' secretary general, Jordi Turull, Aragonès said that Junts now has to appoint Puigneró's successor and, in the meantime, the post will remain vacant.
Aragonès expressed hope that Junts appoints someone that contributes to "redo the confidence" between the two. During his speech, however, the leader highlighted his interest in "Junts to continue in the government."
What next: Junts deliberating whether to quit government
Puigneró's party was due to respond on Thursday, as Junts' leadership met from 10am to discuss the sacking.
Quitting government is one possibility, and indeed, all ministers of the political party have offered their resignations if that is what is decided by Junts' officials.
In an interview with Rac1 station on Thursday morning, Junts' secretary general Jordi Turull said that any key decision will have to be greenlighted by party members.
Deep crisis in the pro-independence government
The move took place amid the deepest crisis this term between the senior partner, Aragonès' Esquerra, and its ally Junts.
Both disagree on the way ahead in the independence campaign, since while Esquerra prioritizes dialogue with Spain in order to reach a deal on an agreed independence referendum, Junts is skeptical about any progress be made in the talks with Madrid. They stand for a more confrontational approach similar to that of 2017 which ended up in a referendum not authorized by Spain and a failed declaration of independence.
The situation has escalated since Junts threatened to ask for a motion of confidence during the annual general policies debate in parliament on Tuesday evening. Only the president, that is to say, Pere Aragonès, can call a motion of confidence. To tackle the situation, the head of the government suspended his agenda on Wednesday early morning.
Hours later after changing his schedule, the head of government told the press from the executive's HQ in Barcelona that his decision was made after Puigneró did not inform him in advance of the motion of confidence Junts brought up during Tuesday's general policy debate.
"I lost the confidence in Mr Puigneró in the past few hours," he said before adding that "the sacking of the Catalan government's vice president Jordi Puigneró pains me, but it was a necessary step to strengthen the executive."
In fact, the announcement arrived after Aragonès did not receive well the proposal from Junts, as he had already suggested a Clarity Act to solve the Catalan independence conflict during the general policy debate. For him, "the president's responsibility is to think of the general outcome, as citizens need institutions that work with a stable government," he began, when addressing spectators.
The priority of the executive is "to make lives easier for everyone" and for the Catalan leader "this is not compatible with a motion of no confidence, that could take the territory into uncertainty during a difficult autumn," referring to the rising costs of living.
While the decision "pains" the head of the government, Aragonès assured his trust in other cabinet members, "all ministers have my full confidence," he concluded.
Junts condemns "historic mistake"
The decision by the Catalan president was considered a "historic mistake" by Junts in an urgently released statement after the president's speech.
"This historic mistake endangers the future of the independence movement," the text continues and explains that Jordi Turull had already mentioned this to the leader of Esquerra Republicana during their long meeting in the Catalan government's HQ.
Around 30 minutes before Aragonès spoke, Puigneró and Turull left the building beside Junts per Catalunya president Laura Borràs, and currently suspended parliament speaker.
The three leaders were supposed to take part in a party meeting which ended up being re-scheduled from 7pm on Wednesday to 8am on Thursday. It will be then when the group will "take the necessary decisions."
For the political force, Puigneró has made an "impeccable, loyal, and solvent" work, and the Catalan president's decision "attempts the investiture agreement" signed between both parties and "lets down the electoral results from the February 14, 2021 elections," when 52% of votes went towards pro-independence forces.
"The loyalty that really interests is the loyalty for Catalonia," Former Catalan president and former Junts per Catalunya leader, Carles Puigdemont tweeted minutes after the speech. He continued by adding that Puigneró has always assured his loyalty, and despite he can be proud of it "others cannot say the same once they leave their duties."
Puigdemont thanked the vice president for his work from Waterloo, where the former leader resides.
Almost one hour later, Puigneró tweeted thanking the Catalan former leader and writing they "can sack me as vice president, but what they will never stop me from continue to do my work towards Catalonia's independence," the suspended vice president wrote.