Parties disagree on Puigdemont's role as Aragonès' presidential bid fails again

Esquerra's hopeful candidate rejects a "watchdog", as Junts insist this is not their intention and Socialists think possible future cabinet leader could become a puppet

Esquerra Republicana's Pere Aragonès in Parliament on March 30, 2021 (by Job Vermeulen)
Esquerra Republicana's Pere Aragonès in Parliament on March 30, 2021 (by Job Vermeulen) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 30, 2021 02:26 PM

Discrepancies between the two mainstream pro-independence parties have led to the parliament barring Esquerra's Pere Aragonès from the presidency post once again. 

In the second round of vote, only his party and far-left CUP (42 MPs) supported him, while Junts' 32 MPs abstained and the rest (61 MPs including the Socialists, far-right Vox, anti-austerity En Comú Podem, unionist Ciudadanos and the People's Party) voted against. 

During the second debate over Pere Aragonès' presidential bid, the two main pro-independence political forces, Esquerra and Junts, made clear their disagreements that are so far preventing a successful candidacy.

They disagreed on whether the former president Carles Puigdemont’s private organization, Council for the Republic, should play a role in the next cabinet.

Indeed, Junts on the bid of Aragonès, a candidate who has implicitly rejected any interference from Puigdemont's entity in his future government, refusing any kind of "watchdog" or "replacement." 

Yet, in his opening speech for the debate already doomed to be unsuccessful, he said that he is ready to "coordinate strategies" towards independence with the aid of groups like Council for the Republic.

Junts' MP Gemma Geis said they do not want to impose any "watchdog" by involving their party leader Puigdemont's organization, Council for the Republic – yet, she called on Aragonès to respect the presence of Junts' 32 MPs and to acknowledge their manifesto.

Geis also pointed out that that JxCat's model for the country was nowhere near that which has been agreed between ERC and CUP. 

Both parties seemed to have more chemistry during the debate than Friday, as they coincided that they are "obliged" to reach a deal with each other and were positive about a pact. 

Who should monitor the road to independence 

One of the key issues stagnating negotiations between the two pro-independence forces is a disagreement over which body should be used to oversee the establishment of an independent Catalan state in the future.

While Junts defend that the force coordinating policies dealing with the national issue should be the Council for the Republic, a private organization chaired by their leader and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, , Esquerra and CUP believe that a new body should be created integrating several civic groups including the Council for the Republic.

Both Esquerra and far-left CUP have recently suggested that Puigdemont's organization is biased and favors his own political party.

Aragonès "puppet" or "humiliated"  

Also in parliament on Tuesday, the Socialists, who garnered the most ballots in the February 14 election but have no chance of achieving a majority in the chamber, criticized the battleground that lies between the two pro-independence parties.

Their leader, Salvador Illa, said that if Aragonès reaches a deal with Junts, he will be "a puppet of the inexistent and fictitious Council for the Republic" – and if he does not, he will have been a victim of humiliation perpetrated by Puigdemont's party, a powerful presence in the current interim government. 

Similarly, Ciudadanos' leader in parliament, Carlos Carrizosa, warned Aragonès that if he becomes president, he would be a "puppet." Carrizosa added that he "couldn't care less about the Council for the Republic," and accused the pro-independence parties of having "forgotten" to govern for all Catalans.

Jèssica Albiach of Catalunya En Comú-Podem said JxCat were using "humiliation" tactics in their negotiations by asking Aragonès not to put himself forward for election on Tuesday.

The People's Party agreed, saying Puigdemont's party "does not accept" that Aragonès is in charge and were seeking to "humiliate him."

Social policies key for CUP

The far-left CUP confirmed their support for Esquerra's candidate and said that a universal basic income is a must in the next term. Their MP Eulàlia Reguant said they still had "an outstretched hand to turn the next term into a struggle for the rights of the people and the freedom of the country."

She warned ERC and JxCat that it is up to them to avoid a situation that would see "people attacking the government."

Anti-fascist posters

Many MPs left the chamber when it was the turn of Ignacio Garriga of the far-right party Vox to speak. Garriga complained that some MPs held up anti-fascist posters, but parliament speaker, Laura Borràs, defended their right to display them.

Garriga accused the pro-independence parties of being "Catalonia's disgrace" and urged them to apologize to the Catalan people and "leave forever."