Row in Spain’s Congress over ‘fascism’ accusations

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The speaker of the Spanish Congress, Ana Pastor, expelled a pro-independence MP from the chamber on Wednesday after a confrontation between him and Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell.

The row came after days of rising tension in the Spanish parliament between anti-independence and pro-independence groups, but also between left and right wing parties. The use of words such as “coup d’état” or “fascist” and mutual accusations of being anti-democratic had become persistent.

Catalan MP Gabriel Rufián started his remarks by saying his parliamentary group, pro-independence ERC, will define anyone calling them “participants of a coup d’état” as “fascist.”

Borrell thought Rufián had called him a “racist” and urged the speaker to delete the insults from the minutes of the session. The speaker said she would comment on that afterwards but let the Catalan MP go ahead.

Rufián went on to define Borrell as the “most disgraceful minister in the history of democracy.” “You are not a minister, you are a hooligan, a militant of Societat Civil Catalana, an embarrassment for your parliamentary group, because this is a far-right organization,” he said.

The pro-independence MP accused Borrell of a lack of respect towards the ERC leader, Oriol Junqueras, who has been in pre-trial jail for more than a year.

“You mocked Oriol Junqueras while he was rotting in a Madrid prison. I urge you to stand down,” Rufián said. He was referring to comments by Borrell during a campaign event when he described the ERC leader as “imprisoned father Junqueras” and said he had the “same physical and mental structure” as his town pastor.  

“You only offer a mix of dung and sawdust to this chamber,” minister Borrell replied to Rufián. All the Socialist MPs stood up to applaud him, as also did some members of Ciudadanos (Cs) and the People’s Party (PP), to which Rufián reacted by also standing up and pointing at the cross-party unity arrayed against him.

This prompted the chamber speaker to call him to order. After three warnings, she expelled him, and his entire parliamentary group abandoned the chamber with him. While they were leaving the plenary, Borrell accused one of them of spitting at him, something that the ERC MPs denied.

Following the row, speaker Ana Pastor condemned the attitude of MPs in the chamber and said that she would not tolerate it anymore. She added that accusations of “fascism” and “coup d’états” will be deleted from the minutes of the session.

Pastor also regretted “sexist” comments seen in the press that portray her as a “governess.” “I won’t tolerate any more things such as those that we saw here today,” she added.