Spain’s Left-Right Negotiations Stalled As Catalan Demands Remain Unresolved
With a week having passed since Spain’s July 23rd election, the main cards for the start of a negotiation are now on the table. First, the result is now final after the Central Electoral Commission counted the votes cast from abroad, province by province, leaving the following picture: 171 deputies in the left bloc with Pedro Sánchez and 172 in that of the right led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo; leaving the seven Together for Catalonia (Junts) deputies having to vote yes if they are to allow the investiture of a left-wing prime minister, since abstention is, as of now, insufficient.
Second: Carles Puigdemont’s Junts party has expressed its willingness to negotiate a political agreement for the investiture that must include a solution to the conflict between Catalonia and Spain. This agreement must be public and serve as a road map during the legislature. Obviously, not everything can be resolved on the first day, but making public the agreements that are reached will serve as a road map. Junts will not accept verbal agreements made in a café, as has been explained by way of example. There is a date on the horizon that should be taken into account: on November 17th, the trial begins at Spain’s public auditing tribunal, the Court of Accounts, for the alleged diversion of public funds for the external promotion of Catalan independence, with thirty former high officials accused, among them, Carles Puigdemont himself.
Third: Junts has already designated its interlocutor in this negotiation who is none other than Carles Puigdemont. Who is the representative of the Spanish Socialists (PSOE)? If until now, PSOE messengers have travelled to Belgium, as the Catalan president revealed without giving names during the recent election campaign, to propose individual solutions that he rejected, now it will be essential that a Socialist negotiator be made official. One way to get things off to a good start would be to give the credentials for this to former Spanish PM José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who has distanced himself from the hostility towards Puigdemont that the vast majority of PSOE leaders have had these years.
Fourth: if there ends up being a deadlock in the legislature, the reasons for this must be clear. The PSOE will not be able to claim that Puigdemont’s requests were ethereal or impossible, in the abstract. If the opposition People’s Party (PP) dares to play the game, it too will know them. Obviously, there would never be any talks with far-right Vox and, in any case, they would only take place with the PP who in turn would speak with Abascal’s party. What is the reaction in the Zarzuela royal palace to this possibility? Because Vox is a disciplined monarchist party. On Saturday, the PP launched a first message of willingness to talk with Junts, which has remained there as a mere inventory.
Fifth: is anyone in the PSOE making the effort to read how similar conflicts have been approached? I fear they haven’t. At least, not seriously. Even if it’s obvious, it’s worth saying here: increasing [Catalan] competencies and territorial power will not be enough for anyone to get the seven votes of Junts. And the sooner some are clear about this, the faster things will move beyond the current point of stagnation. That is, if they don’t want to go to a repeat election, which is the end point dreamed of by Pedro Sánchez.
Produced in association with El Nacional En