PARTY POLITICS

Prominent Socialist Chacón assumes mediator role in party’s Catalan rift

Former defense minister backs PSC leader’s call for king to abdicate but abstains in self-rule vote in Congress

Carme Chacón talks with the Catalan Republican Left´s congressional spokesman, Alfred Bosch. / Zipi (EFE)

Carme Chacón, a former member of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s Cabinet and congressional lawmaker for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), a branch of the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), on Wednesday moved to heal a growing rift in the main opposition grouping’s midst.

PSC leader Pere Navarro broke ranks with the PSOE on Tuesday by voting along with 12 other PSC deputies in Congress in favor of a motion put forward by self-rule seeking Catalan parties calling for negotiations with Spain’s Popular Party (PP) government on a referendum for Catalans to decide their future within Spain. Rather than breaking completely with the discipline of either the PSC or PSOE, Chacón opted to abstain in the vote.

The combined votes of the PP, its splinter group Foro Asturias, the PSOE rump and the centrist UPyD meant the motion was rejected by 275 votes to 60.

Catalan Socialist leader Navarro had also angered PSOE leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba last week by unilaterally calling for King Juan Carlos to abdicate in favor of his son Felipe.

Warming to her self-appointed task as broker, Chacón, who lost out in the race for the PSOE leadership to Rubalcaba in a party convention held just over a year ago, said in an interview with commercial television channel Antena 3 on Wednesday that she understood “perfectly” the reasons behind Navarro’s call for the king to stand down.

What we are currently seeing with the monarchy is hardly an edifying spectacle”

The Royal Household has found itself embroiled in an investigation into the business affairs of the king’s son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, who faces charges of siphoning off public funding for sports-related events and possible tax fraud, among others. The king last year was forced to make a public apology after it was revealed he had gone on an elephant-hunting safari in Botswana at a time of economic crisis and austerity measures.

“What we are currently seeing with the monarchy is hardly an edifying spectacle,” Chacón said. “What I am clear on […] is that from now on the monarchy has to be transparent or else it will be very difficult for it to continue to exist.”

However, she said she did not back Navarro’s calls for the king to abdicate. “Frankly, I do not believe that is my job,” she said. Chacón said it would be “good for everyone” that the Royal Household be one of the institutions included in a future Transparency Law. “That is my proposal and this will be the PSOE’s proposal also,” the former defense minister said.

Addressing her reason for abstaining in Tuesday’s vote, Chacón said: “I am a member of the PSC and I want to say loudly and clearly that the PSOE and the PSC have to continue down the same road.” Chacón is widely believed to still harbor ambitions to lead the PSOE in primaries which may be held in 2014.

She said she was also against the go-it-alone approach of the parties that proposed the motion: the center-right Catalan CiU nationalist bloc, Iniciativa per Catalunya and the Catalan Republican Left. “I did not want to support motions by parties that have initiated in Catalonia a unilateral secessionist project in Spain; a process of rupture […] that I do not want to support,” she said.

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