Parliament speaker post hangs in the balance in post-election talks
One of the highest offices in Catalonia is disputed amongst pro-independence parties who won the February 14 election
After winning a harshly fought election and increasing their majority of parliamentary seats, pro-independence parties face a new challenge: agreeing on who will be the next speaker of the Catalan parliament; which is to say, what party will preside over the second highest office in Catalonia.
There seems to be no doubt surrounding who will occupy the highest office, the presidency of the Catalan government: Pere Aragonès, the current vice president, who led the Esquerra (ERC) candidacy to become the most voted pro-independence party, only surpassed by the Socialists with whom they are tied at 32 seats.
Since ERC appointing both a president and a parliament speaker seems to be out of the equation, that leaves another two options within the pro-independence bloc: Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), who surpassed ERC in the previous election and therefore held the presidency; and CUP, a far-left anti-capitalist party that has helped ERC and JxCat stay in power, but has rejected assuming further political responsibilities.
JxCat (31 seats) believes "the most normal thing" would be for them to appoint a parliament speaker, like ERC did as the second biggest pro-independence party three years ago, but Esquerra has raised the possibility of CUP (9 seats) leading the chamber.
"We’re willing to talk about everything with everybody. We want to be transparent and reach an as wide as possible consensus," said Sergi Sabrià, the head of ERC in the Catalan parliament.
While JxCat welcomed the possibility of CUP taking part in a coalition government with the two other major pro-independence parties for the first time ever, they are not happy about the possibility of the far-left party appointing a parliament head and believe that would set their alliance with ERC off to a bad start.
An MP for CUP, Carles Riera, recently said that the party was "very far" from entering a coalition agreement with ERC and JxCat, but any decision—including the parliament speaker post—will have to be ratified in an assembly by party members.
The Socialists and a bittersweet victory
While the Socialists were the most voted party on February 14, the taste of their victory is becoming more bitter by the day: without a majority of seats in parliament, having the greatest amount of popular support remains a merely symbolic feat granting no real political power.
While Socialist officials have privately conceded that pro-independence parties will remain in control of Catalan institutions, their presidential candidate, Salvador Illa, announced on Tuesday that he would propose a "left-leaning woman" to preside over the chamber.