A major crisis in Spain? The Catalans are setting conditions, the tension is growing

Disunited Catalan independence movement, divided between parties of the left and the right, could unite as the formation of Spanish government depends on them.

Source: Jutarnji list
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EPA-EFE/Enric Fontcuberta
EPA-EFE/Enric Fontcuberta

The Catalan Republican Left (ERC), the party of regional Prime Minister Pere Aragonés, wrote a letter on Monday to the centre-right Together for Catalonia (JxCAT) party, led by former exiled Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont.

In the letter, the ERC proposes a joint demand for a referendum on the independence of Catalonia, amnesty for the convicted participants of the banned referendum from 2017, and the introduction of the Catalan language in the European Parliament as one of the official languages.

These would be the conditions for Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to remain in power in Spain for another four years.

The right bloc of parties got 172, and the left bloc led by Sánchez 171 MPs in the parliamentary elections in Spain held a week ago. To form the Spanish government, 176 representatives are needed in the 350-seat parliament, which no bloc can reach. Seven MPs from Puigdemont's JxCAT party can win. ERC has another seven MPs, included the leftist bloc inclined to Sánchez.

"In a very complicated scenario, in order to stop the Spanish right, a good part of Catalan society has decided to support obedience to the Spanish parties," the ERC said in a letter published by the Catalan newspaper Ara on Monday.

"The elections have given the independence movement a new opportunity: the fourteen Catalan deputies who stand for independence are necessary for the governance of the country," added the letter signed by Oriol Junkeras, along with Catalan Prime Minister Aragones.

He was sentenced to prison for organizing a referendum with Puigdemont a little less than six years ago. The signatories point out that Sanchez's ruling Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) has no other alternative but to rely on the support of the two Catalan parties.

"We have a strong lever that we must use together, move forward, build and advocate amnesty and self-determination and a better life for citizens," they stated. The ERC and JxCAT stopped cooperating last year because they disagree on how to achieve independence for Catalonia, but also on other matters within Catalonia itself, Spain's industrial and tourism engine. Both parties, however, want a new, consensual referendum on independence.

That organizing such a referendum could be a condition for Sanchez, Puigdemont also made it known in a statement sent last week from Belgium, where he has been living since the fall of 2017.

"The defense of Catalonia means the continuation of progress in the political negotiations that must enable the end of the repression and give a voice to the Catalans so that they can freely and democratically decide on their future in a referendum," the ERC said in the letter.

Sánchez's party responded last week that it was ready to talk with the Catalan parties JxCAT and ERC, but only "within the framework of the Spanish constitution". The PSOE and the Spanish Constitutional Court stated earlier that such a referendum is not in accordance with the constitution.

The PSOE won the most votes in Catalonia, an autonomous region of 7.5 million people in the northeast, in the Spanish parliamentary elections a week ago. Previous polls indicated that the population there was divided on the issue of full independence.

Next month, Spain's center-right Popular Party, which won the most votes individually, will first try to get enough votes in parliament to form a government in Spain.

If it doesn't work, PSOE will try. If Spain does not get a new government by October, more than 37 million voters will go to new elections.

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