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First televised debate in Catalan election campaign

Polemic around management of the pandemic center of the discussion


01 February 2021 02:13 PM


ACN | Barcelona

The RTVE debate held on Sunday evening, the first of the Catalan electoral campaign, centered heavily around the managing of the pandemic. 

Controversy began even before the discussion took place, as pro-independence candidates Pere Aragonès, Laura Borràs and Carles Reira announced they would speak in Catalan, when the debate had been planned in Spanish. Àngels Chacón of center right PDeCat, also joined them in speaking Catalan. The programme was dubbed for Spanish speakers.

Rapidly, the discussion became heated, with the pandemic being center stage. Catalonia has experienced a push and pull between the Spanish state and the Catalan Government aiming to manage the health crisis.

Critiques of Catalan government’s crisis management

The day before the debate saw Catalonia reach the grim milestone of 500,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the area.

Aragonès of ERC, acting vice-president with function as president of Catalonia, defended the government’s handling of the crisis, highlighting the 2,800 million that were given out last March, whilst blaming the Spanish government for “not doing their jobs” in terms of financial aids and the repartitions of money from the temporary layoff scheme (ERTO) ERTO.

“The level of incompetence has been palpable”, Alejandro Fernández, of the People’s Party (PP), aimed this comment at ex-Spanish health minister turned PSC presidential candidate Salvador Illa. 

Independence party JxCat also echoed these sentiments of support for the Catalan government, saying that Quim Torra, former Catalan president, did what was right and “listened to experts.”

However, the other parties directed their criticism toward the Catalan government. Illa stated once again the need “to work together” with Spain in the centralization of the vaccination programme, as well as reinforcing the current health system in Catalonia.

In a hit at Vox, lla stated that those who had voted against the state of alarms “have done the most damage.”

These negative feelings continued, as Dolors Sabater of the far-left CUP said the executive “had completely failed”, whilst Jéssica Albiach of left-wing ECP called their work “a mess”, with Chacon emphasizing that the Catalan government’s measures had created “confusion.”

Chacon suggested mass testing with collaboration between public and private sector and €2,500 monthly given to sectors affected by the pandemic.

Carlos Carrizosa, candidate for Cs, lamented that members of the Catalan executives defended their roles during the health crisis, calling them “demagogues”, also criticizing comments made by cabinet spokesperson Meritxell Budó in April 2020, stating that had independence occurred, the Catalan government would have been able to act faster in relations to the crisis. 

The independence question 

Another hot topic was how each party planned to deal with the independence issue. However, there was little change in the parties’ respective positions

The PP denounced “magic indepentism”, as a means to ridicule the movement. This makes reference to the magical realism literary movement, in which magical hard to believe elements are introduced into reality. 

Fernandéz added that discussions were needed with the state in order to push through the issue.

Chacon stated that either “there is amnesty, unitary strategies, a binding referendum and international recognition or we will not be independent.”

Far-right VOX candidate Ignacio Garriga denounced projects of the Catalan government, such as the Catalan delegations abroad as being fronts for “separatists and the left” to place their “friends”.

Possible pacts remain stable

A noticeable moment was Cs and PPC coming together to denounce the Socialists for what they see as “tricking” voters into voting for them and then making pacts with pro-indy parties. 

In terms of pacts, the same three possibilities remained on the table following the debate: an executive in favor of Catalan independence, one against it, or a left-wing government encompassing parties from the both blocs.

Vox under fire for ‘racist’ comments

Garriga came under fire during the debate after making derogatory comments surrounding certain Catalan neighbourhoods, which have become increasingly diverse, calling them “multicultural shitholes.” 

Riera demanded that the presenter did not allow “hateful and racist discourse be displayed on public television.” whilst Albiach asked that his “barbarities” be ignored.


  • Candidates for the Catalan elections at the RTVE debate on January 31, 2021 (by RTVE)

  • Candidates for the Catalan elections at the RTVE debate on January 31, 2021 (by RTVE)