Pro-independence parties reach agreement to 'find way out' of deadlock and avoid snap election

Esquerra, Junts per Catalunya and CUP decide to separate debate on how to achieve independence from governance

MPs in charge of pro-independence government formation talks after a meeting on May 12, 2021 (by Marta Sierra)
MPs in charge of pro-independence government formation talks after a meeting on May 12, 2021 (by Marta Sierra) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

May 12, 2021 02:24 PM

The three Catalan pro-independence parties with MPs have found consensus in the fact that a snap election has to be avoided. 

After a rare joint meeting called by far-left CUP early on Wednesday afternoon, the three parties released a statement committing to "find a way out" of the current deadlock so that the new term can begin. 

Esquerra, Junts per Catalunya and CUP have decided to separate the debate on how to achieve independence from governance. 

Indeed, "creating a space to debate the strategy of the pro-independence camp beyond governance" is one of the shared commitments.

Differences of opinion have arisen during the talks over who should be in charge of overseeing the path to independence, and whether this would mean that the government has a watchdog or reports to an entity beyond the traditional institutions.

Junts has been insisting on the former president Carles Puigdemont's private organization Council for the Republic monitoring the road to independence – although they have denied that this would mean any interference in the cabinet's decision-making.

Meanwhile, Esquerra and CUP are skeptical and accuse the body of being "biased," taking into account that Puigdemont is at the same time leader of the Council for the Republic and of Junts per Catalunya. 

The joint statement also includes other commitments, such as putting forward a "national pact for self-determination" so that, "through dialogue and democratically confronting Spain," self-determination and amnesty for those prosecuted in the independence push during the 2010s are achieved. 

"Responding to the social and economic crisis" that Catalonia is going through due to the pandemic and "building a common front to defend the fundamental and basic rights that do not fit in Spain's legal framework" are the other two items included in the written agreement.

What now? 

The "bare minimum" agreement between the three parties, who have enough seats to elect a president if they find a consensus, moves us away from the possibility of a snap election, which would occur in mid-July if lawmakers do not pick a new head of government by May 26. 

Yet, avoiding another ballot is not guaranteed. The agreement does not mention what "finding a way out" of the deadlock translates to. Since Esquerra prevailed in the February 14 election among the pro-independence parties, the only bidder is their frontrunner, Pere Aragonès.

Esquerra and Junts had been negotiating over a shared cabinet for three months, and as the deadline loomed, the former decided to seek a minority government with Junts' support from opposition. But Puigdemont's party has not guaranteed support for this scenario and insist they want to be part of a coalition.

Sources from Junts per Catalunya told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that the agreement reached is with a view to avoid another trip to the polls, but the party maintains that it wants to continue in the government. How exactly to avoid fresh elections has not yet been specified, despite the three parties meeting to "untangle" the start of the new term. 

Esquerra still maintains that it wants to govern alone at the beginning of the term, even after Wednesday's pact. It says it will consider the possibility of other parties joining the government at a later date.

As for CUP, they are backing Aragonès as long as a potential deal between Esquerra and Junts is not incompatible with the one that they signed with Esquerra in late March.

En Comú Podem skeptical

Esquerra have also been having talks with the anti-austerity En Comú Podem, who want to clarify their situation following the meeting of the three pro-independence parties.

Lucas Ferro, an MP for En Comú Podem and a member of their negotiating team, is skeptical about Wednesday's agreement, telling ACN that the problems between Esquerra and Junts "will not be solved in a two-hour meeting."

"It is an old one," he continued, "stemming from their irresponsibility when leading the Catalan government and I think that neither ERC nor CUP will be able to convince the public that this cabinet will not end up as a failure again."