Oriol Junqueras to remain head of Esquerra party despite temporary resignation

Pro-independence leader to step down after EU election and run again for party leadership at November summit

Esquerra Republicana president Oriol Junqueras
Esquerra Republicana president Oriol Junqueras / Mariona Puig
Oriol Escudé Macià

Oriol Escudé Macià | @oriolsqd | Barcelona

May 16, 2024 10:10 AM

May 16, 2024 02:06 PM

The president of Catalan pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana, Oriol Junqueras, wants to continue leading the party despite announcing on Wednesday that he would resign after the European election.

With this announcement, it is assumed that Junqueras will only resign temporarily until the extraordinary summit on November 30, where he will present his candidacy for the leadership of the party, with no other rivals so far. 

Junqueras said he felt "useful" to "reconstruct" the party after its defeat in the Catalan election on May 12, in which it lost 13 seats.

"I can only be fully legitimized to help the people if I have explicit and renewed support from party members. I want to go through them to know what they expect from me," he said.


The vice president of the Catalan government during the 2017 referendum said that the decision to resign was a continuation of the letter he sent on Tuesday, when he said he opened the door to continue leading the party. 

"I have the strength to be president of Esquerra," he said on Thursday. "I'm not in a hurry, but I don't want to give up anything to help my party and my country."

 Junqueras said that by resigning, he will be able to "go to the streets" and "talk to the people as equals, without positions or functions," adding that he needs to listen to the party members.

"We have done extraordinary things. We made it possible for people to vote on the future of Catalonia in the 2017 referendum. I want to continue to do these extraordinary things," he said. 

Esquerra in leadership crisis after election defeat

Catalan pro-independence party Esquerra has been in a leadership crisis following its defeat in the Catalan election on May 12, losing 13 seats and the presidency.

Catalan president Pere Aragonès of Esquerra announced the day after the election that he would step down as a member of parliament and "facilitate the transition" to new leadership for the party.

In the same line, Marta Rovira, secretary general of Esquerra, announced her decision to resign.

Catalan president Pere Aragonès and the leadership of Esquerra following the results of the Catalan election on May 12
Catalan president Pere Aragonès and the leadership of Esquerra following the results of the Catalan election on May 12 / Àlex Recolons

But although both Aragonès and Rovira are pushing for new leadership within the party, longtime party member Junqueras is vying for the opposite: to lead the party again

Junqueras, however, denied that he had been pressured by anyone in the party. "I have felt accompanied," he said, celebrating that there are "many and varied" positions that want to help " strengthen" the party. 

Supporting the Socialists or Junts+

Although Esquerra did poorly in the Catalan election, its 20 seats in the parliament will be crucial in electing the next president.

The most likely candidate is Salvador Illa, the election winner and leader of the Socialist Party, who will need the support of Esquerra and Comuns-Podem to secure the presidency.

However, Junts+ candidate Carles Puigdemont has also announced his intention to run for president.

Esquerra's decision will be key in determining who is the next Catalan president or whether Catalonia faces another election.

Yet Junqueras has distanced his party from this important decision, after Aragonès decided that they must now be in opposition. 

"If the Socialists, Junts+ and Comuns could agree to reject the best budget in history, I am sure they can agree again now," he said.

The decision will be up to Aragonès and Rovira, since Junqueras plans to resign after the European elections.

However, the impact of this decision on voters will be mainly on the next leader of the party, which could be Junqueras if he regains the leadership in November. 

Puigdemont 'will fight' to become Catalan president

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont renewed his intention to try to be appointed as Catalan president despite having little support. 

He could only be appointed president by a simple majority with the support of Esquerra and CUP, and getting the Socialists to abstain.

Puigdemont, who has lived in exile since the height of the independence push in 2017, denounced efforts to "diminish the legitimacy" of his candidacy. 

"We cannot allow anyone to tell us that our attempt to lead has no legitimacy," he said.

Junts+ candidate Carles Puigdemont
Junts+ candidate Carles Puigdemont / Nico Tomás

The leader of Junts+ has compared the situation to that of the Spanish Congress, where "[Spanish PM] Pedro Sánchez governs in a minority because the coalition members do not have an absolute majority".

"Anyone who tries to delegitimize our candidacy is trying to delegitimize democracy," he said. 

Puigdemont, who needs the support of Esquerra, which is not yet clear, said he has "absolute respect" for the internal process of the left-wing party, but insisted that he will "fight all options".