Catalonia is set to be a major issue for all parties running in the Spanish general election on April 28, with a range of proposals and formulas put forward for dealing with the political conflict that reached its height with the independence referendum on October 1, 2017.
Socialists: “No means no” to a referendum
While avoiding all mention of Catalonia in its manifesto, the incumbent Socialist party has since had to address the source of Spain’s largest constitutional crisis since the return of democracy. Spanish president Pedro Sánchez has been firm that where allowing a referendum on self-determination is concerned, “no means no,” although he may have to rely on the support of the pro-independence parties to be able to form a government.
Unity of Spain, PP priority
Spain’s main conservative party has thrown its weight behind the idea of strengthening Spanish unity, pledging to ban “violent” parties that support “Catalan separatism” and blocking the funding of pro-independence parties whose leaders might be sent to prison for rebellion or sedition. PP leader Pablo Casado has also spoken about reimposing direct rule on Catalonia and blocking any further transfer of powers to the autonomous communities.
Cs wants more direct rule
Fiercely anti-independence, Cs also favors a return to direct rule in Catalonia as well as reviewing the funding of “violent” parties. Party head Albert Rivera has also spoken about changing electoral law to make it harder for nationalist parties to win seats in the Spanish parliament. With Catalan the working language in schools in Catalonia, Cs also wants to “guarantee” the use of Spanish in schools to avoid “indoctrination” in the classroom.
Podemos backs referendum
The left-wing party differs from its Socialist ally, but is in-line with its En Comú Podem ally in Catalonia, in favoring an agreed referendum on self-determination, albeit with more options than just a simple choice between independence or continuing with the status quo. Party leader Pablo Iglesias argues that such a vote is the best way to ensure Spain’s unity because “if support for independence reaches 80%, no law can prevent it.”
Vox vows to “make Spain great again”
Pledging to “make Spain great again,” the far-right party led by Santiago Abascal argues for suspending Catalonia’s self-rule and banning parties and organizations “that pursue the destruction of the Nation’s territorial unity and sovereignty.” Vox also favors putting Spanish above Spain’s other co-official languages, getting rid of the Catalan police, and repealing the historical memory law, aimed at recognizing the victims of the Spanish Civil War.
“It’s about liberty,” claims ERC
With the polls predicting it will be the most-voted party in Catalonia, the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana party (ERC) claims to be the best bet to avoid a coalition between the PSOE and the Cs parties, and says it’s willing to talk to Pedro Sánchez about lending him support. With the slogan ‘It’s about liberty’, ERC also styles itself as the best option to “defend the right to self-determination,” with an agreed referendum top of its manifesto.
No “blank checks” from JxCat
Former president and leader of the pro-independence Junts per Catalunya party (JxCat) Carles Puigdemont warns there will be no “blank checks” in Madrid if its votes are needed to be able to form a government. “Dialogue and self-determination” are the conditions that the party has set for its support. Meanwhile, JxCat’s main candidate Jordi Sánchez, who is on trial in the Supreme Court, sees Pedro Sánchez as “the lesser evil.”
ECP favors referendum through Congress
The left-wing En Comú Podem party (ECP) also favors a self-determination referendum, but proposes convoking the vote through Congress rather than bilateral dialogue, as ERC wants. While ECP does not back outright independence, it wants Catalonia to be recognized as a nation within Spain, and a reform of the criminal code to prevent the judiciary’s “arbitrary” interpretation of rebellion and sedition, with which the jailed Catalan leaders are charged.
FR wary of “making Pedro Sánchez president”
The left-wing coalition Front Republicà (FR) would prefer a united front among the pro-independence parties, and firmly conditions its support for other parties on their acceptance of a self-determination referendum and the release of Catalan leaders being tried in the Supreme Court. FR’s Barcelona candidate, Albano Dante Fachin, has warned other pro-independence parties about “making Pedro Sánchez president.”