Socialist pledges cut to presidential pay, rivals hit back reminding of monarch’s salary

Cs welcome the promise, CUP says it should go even futher, while ERC insist on one-on-one debate

Socialist frontrunner for the Catalan election, Salvador Illa (by Sílvia Jardí)
Socialist frontrunner for the Catalan election, Salvador Illa (by Sílvia Jardí) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 5, 2021 06:58 PM

Salvador Illa, the frontrunner for the Socialist Party for February 14’s election hoping to become Catalan president, has promised to cut his own pay by 30% if he reaches the highest office. 

The former Spanish health minister pledged to reduce the salary of the position to that equating the Lehendakari - the title of the presidency of the Basque Country.

In a debate with other candidates on the radio station Cadena Ser, Illa denounced that the salary of the Catalan president is "three times" the salary of the Italian prime minister, and almost twice the salary of the president of Portugal or Spain.

The Socialist frontrunner agreed it is necessary to ask for a fair income, but added that it was important to lead by example and show "fair spending," while remaining "close to the people."

"The dignity of the institutions of Catalonia,” Illa argued, “is shown in this way, by reducing the salary of those who have the highest wages."

JxCat highlights monarchs’ expenses

In response to Illa’s pledge, the JxCat presidential candidate, Laura Borràs, questioned why her rival finds the role of the presidency of the Catalan government "so unworthy" of the salary.

She hit back that the pay of the Spanish king should be cut. "Do we reduce the expenses of the Royal House? If you want, we reduce them by 100%; we stop paying the expenses of the fugitive king," she replied, alluding to the former monarch who fled Spain to a then-undisclosed location which turned out to be the United Arab Emirates amid a string of controversies and scandals.

Accusations of populism and demagogy

PDeCAT leader Àngels Chacón even linked Illa’s words with populism and demagoguery. “There are other issues that the Socialist candidate, Mr Illa, could refer to. For instance, what about legal privileges?” she asked, referring to the immunity of politicians and members of the judiciary.

“He said we would all be equal. Let's avoid populism and demagogy now that the election is around the corner,” she said in a campaign act in Madrid. 

ERC shifts focus to debate

Head of the list for pro-independence left-wing Esquerra Republicana, Pere Aragonès, welcomed "talking about public wages" and valued Illa’s proposal, but also brought into question the salaries of the monarchy and those of former presidents who went on to take up positions on boards of businesses.

Aragonès also insisted on a one-on-one debate with Illa to discuss the topics. The ERC candidate pointed out that prospects of a debate between the pair had been raised "publicly and privately," but that the Socialists had not responded. 

Measure “appropriate,” says Cs 

Presidential candidate for the liberal party Ciudadanos, Carlos Carrizosa, said that lowering the presidential salary seems "appropriate," but recalled other instances in which Socialist Party members have preferred to keep higher wages.

Carrizosa pointed out that the Socialist Party lead the Free Trade Zone Consortium, with a president who "earns almost the same" as the president of Catalonia. He also noted that Illa’s political force "has voted against" several initiatives to reduce the salaries of public officials in Catalonia. 

Far-left urges pledge to go further

The far-left pro-independence CUP party welcomed the pledge of the Socialist candidate to cut his salary if he is elected president. In fact, they called for the promise to go even further and be extended to all ministers of the cabinet. 

Laia Estrada, top of the anti-capitalist party’s list for the Tarragona region, described the proposal as "fantastic," and reminded that members of her party have "for years" had a revenue cap equivalent to 2.6 times the minimum wage. 

"Political positions must have salaries that are in line with those of the majority of the population," Estrada affirmed.

Far-right rules out investing Illa

Frontrunner for the far-right Vox party, Ignacio Garriga, insisted that he will not help to invest the Socialist candidate, Salvador Illa, nor a pro-independence candidate, as president of Catalonia. 

"Illa was responsible for setting up the dialogue table, which I call the table of surrender to separatism, which shows that the PSOE does not want to defeat separatism," Garriga said. 

"We consider Illa and the Socialist Party as part of the problem" and therefore "we will only support a government that has the will to put an end to the independence push, illegal immigration, the Islamization of Catalonia and insecurity," he said.

The ultranationalist candidate also lashed out at the current Covid-19 restrictions in Catalonia, calling them “an absolute joke.” He believes that the measure changes demonstrate that the Catalan government is “incapable of guaranteeing health or securing the economy.”

“They don’t care about the present or future of many Catalans,” he concluded.