May 14, 2018
Catalonia: plus ça change...
Spanish politics continues to be dominated by the Catalan separatist drive, and the question is whether Mariano Rajoy can prevent a revolt among Spanish conservatives who would like him to crack down harder.
Today the Catalan regional parliament will appoint a new PM in a second round of voting that only requires a simple majority. The first round, requiring an absolute majority, failed on Saturday as the radical left separatist CUP refused to endorse the candidate anointed by former regional premier Carles Puigdemont from his exile in Berlin. This will be Quim Torrà, a publisher and a former president of Ómnium Cultural, one of the two grass-roots organisations keeping the separatist process alive. In his speech during the debate for his first failed appointment attempt, Torrà promised to work towards a Catalan Republic and to open up the process to draft Catalan constitution. Despite being bothered by the content of the speech, Mariano Rajoy said his government will judge Torrà by his actions. This opens up the possibility that Rajoy will declare victory and leave, lifting the intervention of regional self-government under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, and thus paving the way for the Basque nationalist PNV to support the 2018 budget in June.
Spanish conservatives are flabbergasted. A good representative of this is José Antonio Zarzalejos, a respected political commentator. He writes of two pacts between Rajoy and the PNV over the budget, one overt about money, and one covert about allowing a Catalan government and about ending the policy of dispersion of ETA prisoners in jails across Spain and away from the Basque country. The prisoners' issue is again current after ETA officially and finally dissolved itself earlier this month. Whether or not the covert pact exists, the suspicion that it does is dangerous for Rajoy at a time when Ciudadanos is drawing votes by adopting a Spanish nationalist critique of Rajoy's policies.