Presidential candidate under fire from pro-independence allies over corruption charges

CUP and ERC leaders criticize JxCat candidate choice, under investigation for alleged irregular public contracts

Junts per Catalunya head Laura Borràs photographed during an election campaign event (image from Intermèdia Comunicació)
Junts per Catalunya head Laura Borràs photographed during an election campaign event (image from Intermèdia Comunicació) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 2, 2021 05:26 PM

Junts per Catalunya's frontrunner in the upcoming election and subject of an ongoing corruption case, Laura Borràs, was the target of criticism from members of other pro-independence parties on Tuesday.

In an early morning interview with Cadena SER journalist Gemma Nierga, far-left CUP candidate Dolors Sabater stated that her party "clearly would not" support a JxCat government if Borràs' charges are not dropped by Spain's Supreme Court.

Borràs, who is under investigation for allegedly awarding irregular public contracts while she presided over the Institute of Catalan Letters and who fervently maintains her innocence, retorted by claiming Sabater's party would end up having to "decide whether they side with Spanish injustice or Catalan democracy."

While not retracting her comments, Sabater later went on to say that CUP would "only veto" the parties that supported the end to self-rule after the 2017 independence referendum as well as those that do nothing to put an end to the current "paralysis [of the independence push]." According to her, Borràs still has explaining to do regarding her charges, although the CUP politician said she was aware of what she described as Spain's attempts to suppress the independence movement.

Capitalizing on the friction between JxCat and CUP, left-wing En Comú Podem, who are unaligned in the independence question, blasted Sabater for not explicitly stating her stance on potential post-election agreements. The anti-austerity force's presidential candidate, Jéssica Albiach, blasted CUP for supposedly downplaying Borràs' charges but said she believed they could find common ground on social policies.

Meanwhile, the imprisoned politician and head of JxCat's current coalition government partner, Esquerra Republicana's Oriol Junqueras, also questioned Borràs' party's choice to have her run as their presidential candidate on the 14th.

Junqueras did not specify whether his party, which has already committed to not backing Salvador Illa's Socialists, would support a Borràs government, but he did say that if she were a member of Esquerra Republicana, she would have been asked to step down. "We have a 90-year history and no corruption cases," Junqueras said.

Spain-Catalonia dialogue and pardons for jailed leaders

The independence issue featured heavily in campaign events on Tuesday, even amongst parties against the proclamation of a republic.

Ciudadanos candidate Carlos Carrizosa, for one, spoke out against pardoning the jailed independence leaders, and instead said the government should be helping self-employed workers.

The politician also criticized talks between the Spanish and Catalan governments on the matter, which the Socialists, Esquerra Republicana, and Podemos have agreed to resume after the election. "We don’t see it as a negotiating table," Carrizosa said. "There are many Catalans who don’t feel represented by pro-independence parties."

Like Cs, People's Party candidate Alejandro Fernández argued such negotiations were unnecessary and fall "outside the law." According to Fernández, who distanced himself from the Socialists but suggested he viewed a possible agreement with far-right Vox favorably, "there are no political prisoners in Catalonia, but politicians in prison."

PDeCAT's Àngels Chacón, on the other hand, defended dialogue between both governments. "We must talk," she said on Tuesday. "Spain’s government must be brave and solve a political issue through political means."

Far-right greeted by protests

Vox politicians stopped in the northern Catalan city of Ripoll on the campaign trail, describing it as "the cradle of jihadism" as the municipality's former imam is accused of being behind the August 17, 2017 terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils.

Not only were they greeted by chants of "fascists get out of our towns", but Catalonia's Union of Islamic Communities has also filed a complaint against the party at the public prosecutor's office for inciting hatred against Muslims.