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A reality check for the leaders of Catalan independence

Rulings of the Supreme Court and the weakened position of Carles Puigdemont are seeing the cracks in the pro-secessionist movement grow

The former director of the Catalonan police force, Albert Batlle, after a Supreme Court hearing.
The former director of the Catalonan police force, Albert Batlle, after a Supreme Court hearing. EFE

The autocracy incarnate in Carles Puigdemont obtained significant support at the December 21 regional elections. That excess of personality, the creditor of such success, has turned against the pro-independence ranks after they saw on Wednesday the self-confessed weakness of their leader. The private text messages sent by Puigdemont to his former health minister Toni Comín, and which were caught by a Spanish news cameraman, have seriously worsened the cracks that the secessionist block has already been suffering, given that the differences of criteria among its key figures have been smoldering among its three main political forces: Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the far-left anti-capitalism party CUP.

Puigdemont has served as a glue to hold together these parties in the face of the movement’s political rivals and supporters of the Spanish Constitution. He is the emblematic figure who has embodied the rebellion and the victim-hood of the secessionist movement, and he has forced the bloc into a situation where they officially argue that the only alternative to Puigdemont is Puigdemont himself, being a banner of the dignity of Catalonia and of the legitimacy of his battle.

For Puigdemont to offer the image of an isolated man with his fate already sealed is an emotional blow

For this indisputable leader to offer the image of an isolated man with his fate already sealed is an emotional blow for the pro-independence movement. It’s a setback that, obviously, must be combined with the unavoidable collision with reality that time will bring as the cause of the fugitive starts to burn out. The reaction of the European Union, of the government, of the majority parties in the Spanish parliament, of Catalan business owners and, above all else, of the justice system, have turned the Catalan labyrinth into a dead end. It’s just a question of time before the cracks become a break, one that will force the search for leaders with no charges against them, unless those who are currently sought by the law renounce their intention to govern Catalonia.

The voices (predominantly emerging from ERC), which are calling on Puigdemont to stand aside and facilitate a government to be formed, are on the rise. ERC is a party with a long history, and a solid foundation, and is aspiring to become the majority force of Catalan nationalism in the face of Junts per Catalunya, which was born from the remains of the its previous incarnation, Convergencia. The republicans were on the brink of winning more votes than Puigemont. In this underhand battle for power, ERC is now trying to escape from this cycle of losing in which it has let itself get caught up in.

In this underhand battle for power, ERC is now trying to escape from this cycle of losing

The countdown is gathering pace. In the absence of any unanimous criteria regarding the legal deadlines for the investiture session to take place, the Spanish justice system is imposing its own with the accelerated procedures allowed under the Criminal Prosecution Law. If the Supreme Court bars the politicians under investigation from office in the next few months, the losses from the pro-independence ranks will be significant in terms of quantity and quality. It will be a historic defeat that only a quick reaction from the secessionist forces will be able minimize with new leaders willing to govern respecting the margins that are set by the Constitution and the region’s Statute of Autonomy.

They will have to work hard to ensure that a majority of voters do not end up turning their backs on them in the justified belief that they were the cause of the serious damage inflicted on the economy, the society and the image of Catalonia.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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