Esquerra says they will form minority government after lack of agreement in coalition talks

Frontrunner Pere Aragonès says Catalonia "cannot wait more" for a new cabinet after 83 days of negotiations with other pro-independence party Junts

ERC's candidate for the presidency of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès (by Job Vermeulen)
ERC's candidate for the presidency of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès (by Job Vermeulen) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 8, 2021 11:31 AM

Pro-independence Esquerra Republicana intends to form a minority government after almost three months of unsuccessful coalition talks with until now government partner Junts per Catalunya.

Esquerra's frontrunner Pere Aragonès said on Saturday morning that Catalonia "cannot wait more" for a new cabinet as the deadline for the parliament to elect a new head of government ends on May 26 – no new leader on that day would mean Catalonia facing a snap election in mid-May.

"It is not a strategy for the negotiation, it is a decision," insisted the interim Catalan president, confirming from now on they will no longer seek a shared government with former president Carles Puigdemont's party, Junts per Catalunya. Both political forces have been partners in cabinets – the latter was the senior one until now, but Esquerra came first in the pro-independence bloc in the February 14 election.

"We set the deadline of May 1 to reach a coalition agreement, we granted them an extension until May 7," he said. "But we cannot extend the talks in an agonizing way," added Aragonès, referring to the May 26 deadline.

Junts' secretary general, jailed leader Jordi Sànchez, said on Friday that the deal was not sealed yet and estimated that "a few more days" were needed for a successful negotiation.

Sànchez said that "much progress has been made" and the agreement is about to be finalized with "90%" already agreed. 

Yet, Esquerra rejected on Saturday extending the uncertainty 83 days after the election and 222 days after former president Quim Torra was ousted, with the government becoming interim. 

Role of Puigdemont's Council for the Republic source of disagreements

The risk of a snap election is only one of the reasons Aragonès gave to the press on Saturday after a meeting of his party's leadership. 

The interim president also said that Junts has had "no readiness" to overcome the key points in which both parties have disagreed during the talks. 

During the negotiations, differences of opinion have arisen over who should be in charge of overseeing the path to independence, with Carles Puigdemont's party insisting on the former president's private organization Council for the Republic, and Esquerra and CUP – the far-left pro-independence party which sealed a deal to back Aragonès but stay in opposition – being skeptical and accusing the entity of being "biased."

On Saturday, Aragonès confirmed this is still a hurdle, and said that he will not permit "any organization controlling" the Catalan government, and let alone sensitive issues such as the "relationship between the Catalan and Spanish cabinets and the talks" expected to resume soon. While Junts denies wanting that the Council of the Republic to "control" the government, Esquerra's leader said his partner's intention is that Puigdemont's organization "decides" over the road to independence. 

Junts' reaction to Aragonès' announcement

Shortly after Aragonès' announcement, also on Saturday, Junts responded by saying that "a coalition agreement is still possible." Its secretary general, Jordi Sànchez, said from prison that Esquerra has decided "to break off the talks." 

He did not confirm whether Junts would support a minority government of Esquerra in any scenario –their votes are essential in the parliamentary vote to elect Aragonès –, but he added that if Aragonès achieves the support of CUP and anti-austerity En Comú Podem, four of their MPs could back that "left-wing front" merely to launch the term and avoid an election. 

No alternative presidential bidders

Pere Aragonès, the presidential candidate of Esquerra Republicana, remains the only person with credible chances of becoming the next head of government. His only real contender, the Socialist Salvador Illa—who won more votes than Aragonès—is highly unlikely to get enough support from fellow lawmakers to be elected president, as that would imply some pro-independence MPs backing him.