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The price to pay for the political paralysis in Catalonia

The speaker’s decision to adjourn the investiture session indefinitely also puts self-rule on hold

Wearing Puigdemont masks, separatists protested outside Catalan Parliament yesterday.
Wearing Puigdemont masks, separatists protested outside Catalan Parliament yesterday. EL PAÍS

There are actions that contradict one’s words. On Tuesday, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, postponed the investiture debate meant to put Carles Puigdemont back in power, and he did so in order to avoid committing a flagrant crime. But Torrent also delivered a harsh pro-independence speech that came across as artificially combative. If the republican leader is so certain that the ousted premier is the only possible candidate to the premiership, going ahead with the plenary session would have been an act of bravery. Similarly, it is hard to understand his fierce criticism of the Constitutional Court, followed by a decision to turn to this very same court for dispute resolution. But at this point, it is useless to ask the pro-independence forces for even a little bit of consistency.

The price of this deep crisis is fundamentally being paid by the Catalans

The facts are inescapable. The postponement has an evident result: Article 155 of the Constitution remains in effect, and therefore Catalan self-rule remains on hold. On Tuesday, Torrent avoided being targeted by the justice system in exchange for hurting his fellow citizens and sacrificing the region’s powers of self-rule. And this will continue to be the case for as long as separatists refuse to find a viable nominee to head the Catalan government. Belgium, the country where Puigdemont has taken refuge, holds the record for a country without a government: 514 days, a milestone set in 2011. Catalonia could suffer a similar fate under Puigdemont’s people, who do not seem to mind too much.

The administration of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is being pressured from all sides to do politics. Now that the Constitutional Court has set a legally correct course, the time has indeed come to do politics. But these politics must take place in Catalonia, and be done by its leaders. If politics is the art of the possible, then the bloc that won the December 21 elections has the obligation to find a way out, because the alternative to self-government is not independence, it is Article 155. Yet for now, the only art on display is the ability to spark street unrest, to such an extent that some Catalan deputies have required protection to exit the chamber.

The Puigdemont masks could fall equally fast into the wastebasket of history

Separatists have made an emblem out of Puigdemont. But just like the yellow bow quickly replaced the estelada flag, the unofficial symbol of independence, the Puigdemont masks could fall equally fast into the wastebasket of history. Catalonia’s welfare should be paramount. In January 2016, forced by the far-left CUP party, Junts pel Sí (the winner of the 2015 election) gave up on its ticket leaders and made Puigdemont the new premier. A fantasy notion about a new republic took hold even though its sponsors knew full well that this was impossible. Today, cracks are showing in the separatist camp, yet this bloc continues to support a strategy that only leads to paralysis in Catalonia.

This process is exhausting for everyone involved, including citizens wishing for independence. It is a toxic kind of exhaustion, because it could lead to apathy for politics on both sides. This would be catastrophic for one of the most prosperous and dynamic regions in Europe, which is so partly thanks to its participation in Spanish institutions and its 40 years of self-government. The Spanish government is already suffering the political consequences. But let nobody be fooled: the price of this deep crisis is fundamentally being paid by the Catalans.

English version by Susana Urra.

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