What’s next for Catalonia after the historic defeat of the secessionists? | Policy

Madrid Spain – When pro-independence parties lost their overall combined parliamentary majority for the first time in four decades in Catalonia’s regional elections on May 12, many proclaimed the result to be the end of an era.

However, more than two weeks later, the contours of what comes next for Catalonia are far from clear, and the passage of controversial amnesty laws for Catalan nationalists in the Spanish parliament on Thursday has also injected more drama into a picture already complicated political situation, analysts say. .

In early May, Spain’s embattled ruling party, the Socialists, appeared to have scored a major electoral victory in Catalonia: its tally in the region rose from 33 to 42 deputies in a 135-seat parliament.

Meanwhile, pro-secessionist formations, including the center-right and hardline Junts+, which won 33 seats; and the previous Catalan rulers, the more moderate pro-independence ERC, which obtained only 20 seats; he finished far behind. This action caused the resignation of the ERC leader, Pere Aragonés.

End of the process

Analysts believe that the dramatic decline in support for secessionist parties probably represents the electoral goal of the “procés.” That is a term (meaning process) used by Catalans to define the political turbulence that from 2012 onwards revolved around widespread, but by no means universal, demands for a regional referendum on Catalan independence, which took place in 2017. .

Germa Capdevila, a Catalan political analyst and editor of the Catalan-language magazine Esguard, said the secessionist electoral setback can be explained by growing disappointment with Catalonia’s current generation of pro-independence politicians. This translated, she said, into the lowest voter turnout in a Catalan regional election – except one held during the pandemic – since 2006, and a corresponding drop in secessionist support.

“The separatists had thought that certain politicians were going to make their dream (of independence) come true. But in fact, they seem to be too focused on other issues, such as negotiating a better agreement with Spain on the way Catalonia is currently run,” Capdevila said.

Lluis Simón, an independence supporter who lives in the secessionist city of Girona, suggested that Catalans were exhausted by years of tumult.

“After so many crises and so much turmoil and some people even ending
In prison, people have voted for calm,” Simon argues. “It’s a bit like what happened recently in Scotland, where things went as far as they went on the road to independence. But now people have chosen peace.”

What’s next for the independence movement?

Both Junts and ERC were celebrating this week following the approval of amnesty laws that will pardon hundreds of their activists who have faced court charges over the unrest. The most notorious case is that of former regional president Carles Puigdemont, one of the movement’s key leaders who fled to Belgium that fall, supposedly in the trunk of a car.

However, the amnesty law still faces multiple potential hurdles before it can take full effect. These range from planned appeals by the Popular Party, Spain’s main opposition party, in the country’s Supreme Court against the law, to potential legal questions raised by judges at the Constitutional Court or the wider European justice system. The judges have two months to present their appeals. Resolving them could take much longer.

Puigdemont is currently said to be mulling a return to Catalonia, possibly in September or much sooner. But after May’s election and his significant drop in pro-nationalist support, regardless of the date of his return, times have moved on.

Still, whatever Puigdemont’s future, Oriol Bartomeus, a research professor at the Institute of Political and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​said that while the May 12 elections signaled the political demise of the process itself , the results do not represent a death sentence for the separatist movement.

“The independence movement in Catalonia is stronger than before the process began in 2012, and will continue to survive, probably until hell freezes over,” Bartomeus said.

“However, we have been living the consequences of the process since 2018, a kind of no man’s land. “What happened in the regional elections is that we have finally left that no man’s land behind and, possibly, we have entered a new era.”

When will Catalonia have a new government?

Meanwhile, although the Socialists are now the largest party in the Catalan parliament, they remain far short of the 68 seats they needed to win the absolute majority that would have guaranteed an end to 14 years in opposition.

Still, they enter into any coalition negotiations with smaller parties from a stronger position than the pro-secessionist parties.

Weeks, if not months, of negotiations are now expected for the ultra-fragmented parliament, with an August 25 deadline for confirmation of a new president and government. If not, the Catalans will return to the polls.

“The most likely scenario is a socialist government in Catalonia because the only realistic alternative is more elections,” Bartomeus said. “I think a new election would constitute a kind of political suicide for all the different parties.”

Simon agreed with Bartomeus that a socialist government in Catalonia is currently the most likely outcome, but others, such as Capdevila, said they were less sure.

“The type of coalition that would require is practically impossible. If ERC supported the socialists, say, after the huge setback they suffered in the elections, it could put an end to ERC. They can’t do it,” he stated.

The ERC themselves have already insisted that they will not ease the Socialists’ path to power in Catalonia, although a long round of consultations with their party members on the party’s future policies and leadership is already underway. It seems the only certainty for now is further delays.

The situation is further complicated by the continued power plays in Madrid, as Junts+ and ERC are currently propping up the minority National Socialist government in exchange for a legal amnesty. Now that the amnesty has been definitively approved after a tortuous passage through Parliament, attention will turn to how it applies to the approximately 350 people facing charges for their participation in the process, with Puigdemont’s legal fate being a key issue.

On Thursday night, Puigdemont praised the approval of the amnesty law as a “historic event in the long and unresolved struggle between Catalonia and the Spanish state.” But as for his political future, it is difficult to predict what he will actually be able to achieve when he returns to Catalonia and its deeply fragmented regional parliament.

“Puigdemont is doing the same thing he has done for the last few years, which is trying to survive by making people believe that he is still in a position to fight for the presidency of the Catalan government,” Bartomeus said earlier this month.

“But in reality, that is almost a chimera. In terms of seats, the parliamentary math simply doesn’t add up. The fact that Puigdemont has the keys to power in Madrid is important. But he has little or no relationship with what he can really do politically in Catalonia.”

While the question of who will govern in Catalonia remains uncertain, in Madrid the elections have given the ruling Socialist Party a major boost at a time when the opposition PP is widely expected to win the upcoming European Union elections.

“This regional victory in Catalonia is a really good result for the morale of the socialists,” Bartomeus said. “Polls show that the PP’s advantage is slowly decreasing and the socialists are closing the gap. “If that trend is reflected in the European elections, even after a narrow defeat, the socialist government would be much more stable and more or less guaranteed to remain in power until 2025.”

But those national and continental aspirations count for little when it comes to Catalonia’s next government. The region appears headed for a major shakeup of its political players as they try to see who can work with whom to come to power.

“So the path ahead for Catalonia is not easy at all,” Capdevila stated.

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