The PSOE and the PSC are euphoric. The irruption of Illa effect It has given back to a historic party in Catalonia, which has governed the Generalitat twice, the dream of once again being the first formation at least in votes – in seats it is very complicated due to the over-representation of the less populated and more independent provinces. Everything is enthusiasm in the PSOE and in La Moncloa now that it is taken for granted that the elections will be on February 14, as the Executive wanted and as all the Catalan parties are assuming. However, several veteran ministers and leaders admit that this operation has a significant risk: it has already deteriorated the relationship with ERC, a fundamental partner – Pedro Sánchez took out the Budgets with them while Ciudadanos was left out – and threatens to open the way to a rupture of that climate of dialogue that had been installed between the Government and the Generalitat of Pere Aragonès.
The scene has taken an absolute turn. In the script of La Moncloa and Oriol Junqueras, leader of ERC, it was that their group would take the lead in independence and the PSC, with Miquel Iceta, would have a good result, but as a third party. With the Illa effect that has caused the candidacy of the Minister of Health, added to an unexpected recovery of Junts, the PSC could be first and ERC could even be third. In this scenario, which those of Junqueras do not even want to imagine, ERC could again fall from the majority. “If we are third parties, the project of rapprochement and dialogue will have failed at the polls,” admit sources from this party. The ministers consulted admit this risk, although they trust that ERC understands that there is no other option than dialogue. And above all they justify themselves: “What did they expect, that we don’t try to win the elections? That cannot be asked of any party. For that we are retiring ”, sums up a member of the Executive.
An ERC source close to Oriol Junqueras considers that the risk of splitting within its formation due to its collaboration with the PSOE is minimal despite the Illa operation. But he also warns that his party’s patience has a limit. And it sets an approximate date: “If the pardons of the inmates of the you process they do not arrive before the summer, it will be difficult to maintain the current collaboration ”. In the Government they are clear that these pardons are on the table and will come after the Catalans, so they believe that there will be no break, but they admit that the relationship with ERC has now been greatly complicated by the Illa operation.
Another element that poses a risk to the stability of the Government after the Catalans is the possibility of a fiasco in Catalonia in Comú Podem, the so-called commons, which would weaken the position of Pablo Iglesias after the failures in Galicia and the Basque Country. Sources from this group point out that in no case will it be a debacle as in these communities. But the question is open and both the commons and Iglesias are going to turn to prevent the fiasco. The Catalans can thus mark a period of stability in the Executive, if everyone wins, or deepen tensions. La Moncloa has played hard to win in Catalonia, despite the fact that it is very difficult for Illa to govern because the independence movement will unite against him, and assumes the risk that the success of its operation carries precisely for the greater good of being the first game in a decisive community.
The battle against Illa is already declared in any case in the independence movement, which draws a scenario with a kind of plot by the powers of the State to expel the secessionist forces from the Generalitat. They draw the minister, who will cease to be this week, as the ram of an operation supported by the Prosecutor’s Office and by the judges who have stopped the electoral postponement.
With more or less emphasis, both Junts per Catalunya and ERC have joined this thesis. The acting president and candidate of ERC, Pere Aragonès, affirmed on Saturday that the Catalans are “before a State operation to try to make the elections have as their objective the defeat of the independence movement.” And it is that, until the irruption of Illa, the secessionists took the victory for granted and it was only in question whether the Government would lead ERC, favorite in the polls, or the post-convergent Junts.
ERC is experiencing the current situation especially badly, as the threat comes from the party, the PSOE, with which the Republicans have reached important agreements in Congress. Hence, ERC now has to deal with reproaches for having received a stab treacherously from those who have been its partners in Congress. Not all sectors of the party experience it so badly, but the risk that an anger from the grassroots forces a turn of the party towards tougher positions is there.
The journalist and historian Manel Lucas, author of Brief history of Esquerra, recalls that the party “has always suffered splits when things have gone wrong” and that the risk of instability is still there because “ERC has traditionally been a fratricidal party.” Despite the discomfort with the socialists, Lucas sees the party “with people like Joan Tardà or Gabriel Rufián willing to continue negotiating with the PSOE, but this is not unanimous, since ERC also has a less urban soul, who has other interests.”
Other relevant voices of the party are more in favor of keeping their hand extended to the PSOE whatever happens. This is the case of former deputy Joan Tardà, who is no longer in the leadership, but continues to have a great influence. “The strategy of maintaining dialogue frameworks is well established in the party, since the principle of reality tells us that any great advance for Catalonia will not be possible without agreements between the independence movement and parties like the PSC,” he says.
The battle will be brief and atypical, in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic, but very tough. ERC even throws the idea that Illa might want to be invested with Vox’s votes, something difficult to imagine. Until February 14, it is all against all, also between the partners of PSOE and United We Can. That night it will be seen if the elections change the Catalan panorama, reinforce the Executive or open more fronts of instability.