Spanish presidential deal with pro-independence parties still far off
Meetings between Socialists and Catalonia's ruling parties set for Tuesday, with end of "repression" among JxCat and ERC demands
Over the past few days, newspapers have been publishing their bets and rumors on who the next Spanish government ministers will be as well as the first economic, tax and housing measures that the first-ever left-wing coalition cabinet will launch.
But the Socialists and Unidas Podemos cannot go very far with their plans just yet. For their deal to be successful, Pedro Sánchez needs to gather sufficient support in Congress to become president again – and that has not been the case so far.
In addition to a handful of regionalist parties across Spain, they also need to reach an agreement with at least one of the Catalan pro-independence parties to obtain a majority in the chamber – and although meetings continue, they have not yet struck a deal.
Spain's Socialist party will sit at the table with the Catalan president's force, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), for the first time since the November 10 general election.
"It is a gesture of fair play or a minimum parliamentary courtesy that had not taken place until now. On Tuesday I will quickly see whether the meeting will be useful for anything or if it is only for show," JxCat's leader in Madrid, Laura Borràs, has said.
With far-left CUP not willing to join talks, the Socialists will also hold on Tuesday their second meeting with fellow pro-independence Esquerra party (ERC), which came first in Catalonia last month's election.
After meeting for the first time last Thursday, ERC decided to maintain their 'no' vote, but welcomed the fact that the Socialists called the issue in Catalonia a "political conflict."
Dialogue between governments without vetoes
The main pro-independence forces' conditions for backing Sánchez include a commitment to allowing for the Catalan and Spanish governments to engage in dialogue over the independence issue without limiting the discussed topics.
ERC has also proposed that the agreement the talks reach be voted on by Catalans, while JxCat said the negotiations should include an international mediator as well as recognize the party's leaders, current Catalan president Quim Torra and his predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, who is now in exile, as spokesmen.
Deploying a law in force for 13 years
The Socialists have offered to deploy Catalonia's Autonomy Statute law (a basic law establishing the terms of self-rule), according to 'El País' newspaper reports. This, however, is seen as an insufficient move by the pro-independence parties since they believe this should have been the case as the law has been in force since 2006.
Optimism in Unidas Podemos
Meanwhile, the other side in the Spanish left-wing deal, Unidas Podemos, seems to have taken a back seat in the talks with pro-independence parties.
Its leader, Pablo Iglesias, thinks it is likely that the new government is sworn in by Christmas, and praised the "efforts" of ERC and the Socialists to reach a compromise. Their Catalan allies, En Comú Podem, urge the other Catalan forces to put the country's interests "above partisan ones."
Censoring talks with "seditious and fugitives"
On the other side of the political arena, People's Party MP for Catalonia Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo accused Sánchez of promoting an "unconstitutional warming." In her view, Sánchez is engaging in talks with "seditious fugitives."
Some voices in the party suggest that the conservatives should abstain in Sánchez's presidential bid so that the Socialists do not need the support of either Unidas Podemos or the pro-independence forces.