ERC, the oldest pro-independence party
Q&A on Oriol Junqueras’ party
What is ERC?
ERC stands for Esquerra Republicana, or Republican Left. This left-wing party has positioned itself as firmly pro-independence, and it’s running in the December 21 election led by imprisoned vice president Oriol Junqueras, followed by the party’s general secretary Marta Rovira. Its motto for the 2017 campaign is “Democracy Always Wins,” but it has a long history of pushing for a Catalan state, dating back to 1931.
What is its stance on independence?
Esquerra is a pro-independence party. Despite Spain's recent measures against the road to a Catalan state, the party isn’t giving up plans for independence. It plans to seek dialogue with Madrid after the election. Yet, the party does not rule out resuming the road towards a Catalan state - even without the Spanish government sitting at the negotiating table.
What do the polls say?
One month ago it was quite clear that Esquerra Republicana would win the upcoming election. It still holds the lead in the polls, but currently, the unionist Ciutadans, as well as pro-independence Junts per Catalunya parties are catching up. Esquerra’s decline coincides with a key event that happened on November 2: the imprisonment of its leader, Oriol Junqueras, along with half of the Catalan government. All but two ministers - including the vice president - have recently been released with a bail of €100,000each.
Who are its candidates?
Oriol Junqueras is the party’s main candidate, campaigning from prison. After Marta Rovira as second in command, comes President of Parliament Carme Forcadell as number 4. Forcadell is also implicated in many of the accusations from the Spanish government towards pro-independence leaders - indeed, she spent a night in custody, for allowing a vote which led to the Declaration of Independence in the Catalan hemicycle.
She was only released after paying bail of €150,000. Joining her on the ticket as an independent candidate is Foreign minister Raül Romeva, deposed with the rest of the Catalan government, and until recently incarcerated as well for his role in the push for independence. And the list doesn’t end there.
ERC has also included minister of Justice Carles Mundó and minister of Labour Dolors Bassa, both deposed and, until recently, incarcerated in the Madrid region, now out on bond. Toni Comín, another ERC candidate and minister of Health, is currently in exile in Belgium along with half of the Catalan government. Additionally on the ticket is Meritxell Serret, also currently in Brussels.
What is its past, and what does the future hold?
A well-established party in Catalonia since the ‘30s, in the 2015 election ERC joined in the pro-independence Junts pel Sí coalition with president Carles Puigdemont. The coalition won 62 out of 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament. But this year, it plans to run alone. Esquerra has traditionally been strong in Catalonia’s inland. The challenge to overcome lays in Barcelona’s metro area.