Laura Borràs, a ‘daughter’ of the independence referendum, elected Parliament speaker
Junts per Catalunya's MP backed by 65 out of 135 MPs as her stint could be interrupted if disqualified as a result of her open corruption case
Laura Borràs will be the parliament speaker for the new term that began on Friday, the 13th such institution since its restoration in 1980.
She was elected by 64 votes in favour out of 135, with 50 MPs voting for the Socialist candidate, Eva Granados.
Thus, Borràs has become the third woman to hold the post after Núria de Gispert and Carme Forcadell - the latter of whom is currently serving a decade-long prison sentence for allowing a referendum bill be passed in parliament in 2017 and for her role in the independence push.
The vote to select the speaker had to be repeated after no candidate garnered a majority of seats – 11 MPs voted far-right Vox's Maria García Fuster and 8 to left-wing En Comú Podem's Joan Carles Gallego, while 8 more voted blank in the first vote.
"The prosecution of politics, which has been Spain’s only strategy over the past decade, is the greatest example of weakness"
Laura Borràs · Parliament speaker
Borràs will be Catalonia's second-most important authority in the coming years, as part of an agreement between the two mainstream pro-independence forces, Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra – the pact also paves the way for Esquerra's frontrunner, Pere Aragonès, to become president in the coming weeks.
Yet, far-left CUP, the other pro-independence political force, did not support Borràs and cast blank votes – if Aragonès wants to become the head of the government, the anti-capitalists have to at least abstain again during the vote on his presidential bid in two weeks' time.
CUP in parliament bureau for first time
During the same session, pro-independence parties ensured a majority in the parliament bureau (5 out of 7 MPs), which is in charge of regulating the plenary sessions and of accepting motions for consideration.
The bureau's two vice presidents will be Esquerra's Anna Caula (1st) and the Socialist's Eva Granados (2nd).
The secretaries that have been elected are Ferran Pedret (Socialists), Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas (JxCat), Pau Juvillà (CUP) and Rubén Wagensberg (ERC).
For the first time ever, the anti-capitalist pro-independence CUP party will be part of the bureau.
Borràs lashes out at Spain's 'dirty war'
In her opening speech as parliament speaker, Borràs denounced Spain’s "dirty war" against Catalonia’s legislature, and pledged to protect the chamber against any "interference" as well as to "ensure its sovereignty is respected."
"The prosecution of politics, which has been Spain’s only strategy over the past decade, is the greatest example of weakness," said Borràs, who promised that "there will be no limits on what MPs can discuss" as long as she presides over the chamber.
Borràs expressed "admiration" for her predecessor, Carme Forcadell, who was convicted of sedition and sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison for allowing a series of parliamentary votes attempting to break away from Spain in 2017, a verdict that Borràs called a "democratic anomaly." Borràs also said her "goal" was to carry on Forcadell's work.
A political outsider who rose to stardom
Over the last four years, Borràs has gone from being a political outsider to rising to stardom as one of the most popular leaders of the independence movement, falling a few thousand votes short of becoming Catalonia’s first female president in the past election.
In 2013, Borràs became the director of the Institute of Catalan Letters, a post for which she currently faces a corruption investigation for allegedly awarding irregular contracts, and which could lead to her removal from office if found guilty.
In her autobiography ‘Daughter of October 1’, Borràs recalls how the unauthorized independence referendum inspired her political awakening in the fall of 2017. She later joined the Junts per Catalunya party, led by former president Carles Puigdemont, exiled in Belgium.
Borràs quit her post as head of the Institute of Catalan Letters after winning a seat in the Catalan parliament in the December 2017 election.
Minister of culture
Quim Torra, sworn in as Catalan president as Puigdemont's substitute, appointed Borràs as Minister of Culture, a position that put her in the spotlight. She often outshone Torra as the most charismatic JxCat politician, with the exception of Puigdemont.
Borràs’ unlikely rise to political prominence can be explained in part by the imprisonment and exile of Catalan politicians following the referendum push, which swept away some of the most influential leaders of JxCat and their pro-independence allies Esquerra (ERC).
Running in two elections
In 2019, Borràs stepped down as minister to run in the Spanish election. She improved the party’s previous results and became one of the most vocal voices in support of Catalan independence in Congress, where she often rejected any compromise with Spain’s government and criticized ERC for pursuing dialogue.
When a snap election was called in Catalonia, putting an end to three years of infighting between coalition partners JxCat and ERC, Puigdemont’s party chose Borràs as their presidential candidate.
Despite JxCat’s bleak electoral prospects, Borràs helped the party rise in the polls and eventually fell one seat short of a triple tie with Esquerra and the Socialists, who won 33 seats each.
Former Spanish health minister turned Catalan MP Salvador Illa, of the unionist Socialist party, said he found the new parliament speaker's speech "disappointing." According to him, the parliament is being used as "a tool for confrontation instead of a useful tool for dialogue to solve problems for citizens."
Also commenting on Borràs' remarks, staunchly anti-independence Ciudadanos MP Carlos Carrizosa claimed she made certain statements because "she knows she doesn't have a lot of time left" due to the ongoing Institute of Catalan Letters corruption investigation.
ERC, on the other hand, celebrated Friday's events. "This legislature will be full of challenges," said Marta Vilalta, "but we think that with this pro-independence and left-leaning agreement today, we've started off on the right foot."