Candidates focus on future of independence movement and jailed leaders in TV debate
Main party representatives turn out for TV3 electoral debate as general election approaches
The future of the jailed Catalan leaders on trial, the possible suspension of Catalonia's self-rule, and dialogue with the independence movement were some of the main points that came up in Wednesday evening's electoral debate shown on the public television channel, TV3.
The main candidates standing in Catalonia in the general election on Sunday came together on set, with the candidates for the unionist Ciutadans (Cs) and PP parties, Inés Arrimadas and Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, predicting that Pedro Sánchez will pardon the Catalan leaders on trial should his government be reelected.
To support their claims, the Cs and PP candidates pointed to the Catalan Socialist party (PSC) candidate, and member of Sánchez's cabinet, Meritxell Batet, who limited herself to pointing out that no verdict has yet been reached in the Supreme Court, and the leaders held in custody have still not been convicted.
The number two candidates for the pro-independence Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) and Esquerra (ERC) parties, Laura Borràs and Gabriel Rufián, were also critical of the Socialists, for the party's refusal to back a referendum on self-determination in Catalonia.
Batet responded that dialogue within the framework of the law is the only solution to the political conflict, with the candidate for the leftwing En Comú Podem (ECP) party, Jaume Asens, also calling for dialogue but without any conditions "from one side or the other."
Criticism on public TV
At other moments, Arrimadas expressed confidence that Spain's future would not be decided by Catalan president Quim Torra, while Álvarez de Toledo quoted the king's words following the 2017 independence referendum: "You are not alone." The unionist candidates also criticized Vicent Sanchis, the head of TV3, which they accuse of pro-independence bias.
The PP and Cs candidates also came together in criticizing the "cost" to the Catalan economy caused by the efforts to achieve independence, with the ERC and JxCat candidates pointing to Catalonia's fiscal deficit with the State, calling on the Socialists to take action to reduce the gap between what Catalonia contributes in tax and what it gets back.
As for ECP's Asens and PSC's Batet, they both criticized ERC for standing alongside PP and Cs in blocking the passage of this year's proposed budget, which included significant spending on social issues, and which led Sánchez to call an early election.
Meanwhile, Rufián brought along visuals, holding up a photo of Sánchez and Cs Spanish leader, Albert Rivera, clasping hands, and another showing Spanish police charging votes during the 2017 referendum, to which Álvarez de Toledo responded: "Bravo, Guardia Civil."