Opposition calls snap election 'opportunity' and slams president's 'personal and political failure'

Catalans to go to polls on May 12 after budget bill rejected in parliament

Leader of the Catalan Socialists, Salvador Illa, speaks to the press in the Catalan parliament
Leader of the Catalan Socialists, Salvador Illa, speaks to the press in the Catalan parliament / Nico Tomás
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

March 13, 2024 08:08 PM

Opposition parties are holding Wednesday's announcement of a snap election in Catalonia as an "opportunity" that has come at a "key moment," while also slamming president Pere Aragonès' "personal and political failure."

Aragonès brought elections forward after the 2024 budget bill was defeated in parliament by one vote, after failing to reach a deal with left-wing En Comú Podem (Comuns), who refused to budge on their red-line issue of the Hard Rock casino-hotel complex

The Catalan election will take place just weeks before European elections on June 9. 

Aragonès had, until now, always maintained in public that he intended to see out the whole term and call elections for February 2025. 

Responding to the snap election, the Socialists' leader Salvador Illa said "the sooner Catalonia votes the better," adding "the Catalan Socialists are ready and I'm ready." 

His party were the only opposition party to strike a deal with governing Esquerra Republicana (ERC), but at a press conference in Parliament on Wednesday he outlined the need for "a new president." 

Catalonia needs to "turn a page to move forward and prosper," Illa said. 

Meanwhile, Jéssica Albiach, of En Comú Podem, said that the time was right for elections following the failure of the spending plan, as she said the Esquerra (ERC) government looked like a "feeble, end-of-stage executive, without the ability to hold majorities, without leadership, nor a project for the country."

Albiach again pointed out to the president that the obligation to gather a majority in the chamber to approve the budgets was his, firing back at Aragonès' comments placing the blame on those who drew "red lines."

She asked the president not to carry out measures that would make the Hard Rock "irreversible" because "if the next elections are anything to go by, it is about the productive model."

Puigdemont to stand?

Catalan pro-independence party Junts per Catalunya has suggested Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president now living in Belgium, could stand as their candidate for the May 12 elections. 

"With the proposed calendar, [Puigdemont] will be able to be in Catalonia when the new president is elected in parliament," said Jordi Turull, secretary general of Junts. 

However, for Puigdemont to return to Catalonia and stand as a candidate, the amnesty law, which will be voted on Thursday in the Spanish Congress, must be approved.

Lawmakers in the Spanish Congress will vote on the amnesty law on Thursday. It's expected to be approved following a deal between Spain's ruling Socialists and Catalan pro-independence parties Esquerra Republicana and Junts per Catalunya.

Puigdemont himself said that he would be "very excited" to run in the election. Speaking to the media from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Puigdemont said that it seems "reasonable" for him to be able to attend the investiture debate because, considering the calendar "compatible" with that of the amnesty law.

However, the former president avoided making any definitive decision: "The day I make a decision I will communicate it," he said.

CUP points to "personal and political failure" of Aragonès 

Far-left pro-independence CUP MP Xavier Pellicer asserted that the snap elections confirms the "personal and political failure" of Catalan president Pere Aragonès.

The anti-capitalists criticized that the leader of the executive "blamed everything else" for the budgets not being approved, and showed no self-awareness or "self-criticism."

"Aragonès has failed due to the lack of a political project," Pellicer said. 

Right-wing hails "opportunity"

The conservative People's Party has called for voters to "open a new era." Alejandro Fernández, leader of the Catalan People's Party, assured that on May 12, "we have the opportunity to put an end to the independence push and Sanchismo", referring to Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez.

"We are ready, we are excited, full of strength and conviction," Fernández said.

Fernández didn't accept questions from journalists and, for now, it is unknown who will be the PPC candidate. Fernández said that today "all this has come out."

Meanwhile, the far-right Vox said that that this is now a "key moment" for Catalonia. Ignacio Garriga predicted that this upcoming election would mark a "before and after." The election is, for Garriga, "good news" and a "great opportunity."

Garriga suggested that he would be ready to stand as Vox's candidate in the elections, although he has added that the party will make the decision. "I'm ready to continue leading the reaction in Catalonia," he added. 

Elsewhere, Carlos Carrizosa of the liberal Ciudadanos assured that his party will participate in the elections, pointing out that he will go "all in."

The question of whether Cs would contest the vote at all was a live one, as they didn't put any candidates forward in the Spanish general election last July following the poor results in the local elections the previous May.

Carrizosa put himself forward as a candidate, although he added that the party must follow the procedures established to designate the head of the list.