Some light shed on the new Catalan Government: Duran i Lleida to stay in Madrid

The second most important person within the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition, Convergència i Unió (CiU), will not form part of the new Catalan Government. Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida will remain in Madrid as the CiU’s spokesperson in the Spanish Parliament. He will be the Catalan Government’s main negotiator with the Spanish Prime Minister, Zapatero. The new Catalan Parliament resulting from the 28th of November elections will be formed next Thursday and the 129th Catalan President will very likely be elected before Christmas.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

December 10, 2010 10:25 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- Two of the main questions that came up after the recent Catalan elections have been answered. Since the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition’s clear victory, it was obvious that CiU’s leader Artur Mas would become the next Catalan President. However, it was not clear that CiU’s number 2, the publicly recognised figure, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, would abandon his current post as the CiU’s spokesperson in Madrid and come back to Catalonia to join Mas’ government. Today, at a press conference, Mas and Duran announced that Duran was to remain in Madrid, but with higher attributions. Duran i Lleida will increase his role in Spanish politics, becoming not only CiU’s spokesperson in the Spanish Parliament but also the main advocate of the new Catalan Government. As well as his current responsibilities, Duran i Lleida will play an active role in the relationship between the Catalan and the Spanish Government and in Catalonia’s external relation policy. Another mystery of these days has also been solved: the 16th of December will be the day that the Catalan Parliament will be constituted. The new Speaker of the House will be elected. More than likely, Núria de Gispert will be elected the first woman to chair the Catalan Parliament. Together with the groups’ spokespersons, she will decide on the day to celebrate the plenary session to swear in Artur Mas as the 129th Catalan President.

Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida is the leader of the smallest of the two-party Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition, Convergència i Unió (CiU). Duran chairs Unió Democràtica de Catalunya, a Christian-Democratic party and he is the number 2 of CiU. Duran is also the best rated politician in Spain according to most of the polls and is the CiU’s spokesperson in the Spanish Parliament. He is seen as a respected and moderate politician, capable of supporting the Spanish Government in difficult times and of approving painful reforms. His intervention was crucial to approve the deficit reduction measures of May. It saved Prime Minister Zapatero’s Government. Without CiU’s support, Zapatero’s Government would have fallen. It would not have been able to approve the measures requested by European leaders and the US President. These measures were crucial to save the Eurozone from a possible Spanish bail out, something that could have had a terrible effect on the Euro. CiU’s support was also crucial to approve the labour market reform in June. CiU saved Zapatero’s Government twice in one month. However, this is not a new phenomenon. CiU also supported the Aznar and Gonzalez governments in the 1990s, and Duran i Lleida was already back then at the front line.

His vast experience makes Duran an excellent negotiator and an appropriate representative of the new Catalan Government’s man to have in the Spanish capital. CiU won the last elections. During the campaign, they promised to renegotiate the fiscal regional redistribution and get a special economic agreement between Catalonia and Spain similar to that of the Basque Country and Navarra. Duran’s negotiating skills with the Socialist government will be put into practice in the corridors of Madrid. Artur Mas, CiU’s leader and the next Catalan President, offered Duran the possibility to come back to Catalonia and become his right hand in the Catalan Government. That would have seen him act as a type of vice president or prime minister. However, they decided that the best option “for CiU’s interests and for Catalonia’s” was to keep Duran in Madrid and increase his visibility and powers. This was the main message announced at a joint press conference today in Barcelona.

Duran will continue to be the CiU’s spokesperson in the Spanish Parliament. In addition, he will have an active role in Catalonia’s external relations policy, defining strategies and coordinating their actions with the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry. For many years, even during Aznar times, there was a rumour that Duran i Lleida would like to become Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister in a hypothetical coalition government with the CiU. There was also a rumour that he would like to have become the Catalan Foreign Affairs Minister if Mas finally decides to create this Ministry in his new Government. For the moment, Duran i Lleida’s role regarding the Catalan external relations policy is still undefined, at least publicly. Duran will also lead the negotiations with the Spanish Government regarding the competences devolved to Catalonia as well as the new economic agreement that CiU promised in its campaign.

16th of December: new Catalan Parliament

The second political news of the day has been the announcement that the Catalan Parliament will hold their first session this term and elect a Speaker of the assembly.. The incumbent, outgoing Catalan President, the Socialist José Montilla telephoned Artur Mas last night to tell him that the new Parliament will be formed on Thursday 16th of December, 18 days after the elections. In this session, the Parliament will more than likely elect Núria de Gispert, from Duran’s Unió Democràtica, as the Parliament’s Chairperson. She will be the first woman to take on this role. Núria de Gispert has already been the Catalan Minister for Justice, Home Affairs and Public Administration in different CiU’s governments, between 1995 and 2003.

If the new Catalan Parliament is formed on the 16th December, it would mean that legally the new Catalan President would have to be elected in the next 10 days. Considering Christmas and Saint Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day), which are important holidays in Catalan tradition, Artur Mas will likely be elected as Catalan president between the 21st and 24th of December. This would mean that he would appoint his Government between the 24th and the 28th of December. Therefore, it seems that the first cabinet meeting to elect the first deputy ministers and other key posts could be just before the 31st of December or the very first week of January, probably on the 3rd.