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Catalan parliament blocks Spanish PM’s choice for Senate speaker

Miquel Iceta received 25 votes in favor, 65 against and 39 abstentions despite warnings from Pedro Sánchez that vetoing his pick would hurt the spirit of dialogue

Miquel Iceta in the Catalan parliament.
Miquel Iceta in the Catalan parliament.

The Catalan parliament on Thursday voted against the designation of Miquel Iceta, a veteran leader of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), as a senator. There were 25 votes in favor, 65 against and 39 abstentions.

To veto Miquel Iceta is to place hurdles in the way of a political way out

PSC spokeswoman Eva Granados

The Catalan separatist parties Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the far-left anti-capitalist CUP party had announced ahead of the session that they would vote against Iceta.

The move means that he will be unable to take up a seat in the Spanish Senate or be appointed speaker of the upper house, thwarting the plans laid out by acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, whose Socialist Party (PSOE) won the most votes at the general election of April 28.

Sánchez had warned on Wednesday that to block Iceta’s designation would represent “a veto on social harmony, mutual understanding and dialogue.”

Ahead of the vote on Thursday, Iceta insisted that “the only way out we have is dialogue, negotiation and dealmaking.”

But separatist parties on Thursday voted against him, while the right-of-center Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens) abstained. The move is unprecedented, as until now these appointments had been little more than a formality. The Catalan parliament had appointed senators on 29 occasions before, and every time the vote had simply ratified the parties’ top choices.

This will not work just because there is a Catalan speaker in the Senate

Sergi Sabrià, ERC

 

“What reason is there to veto Miquel Iceta?” said PSC spokeswoman Eva Granados. “Nobody had ever been vetoed before, not even Albiol (PP) or Roldán (Ciudadanos). If you voted for them, what sudden motive is there now? To veto Miquel Iceta is to place hurdles in the way of a political way out.”

Separatist parties argue that Iceta and his party supported the application of Article 155 of the Constitution, which temporarily suspended regional powers following the unilateral independence declaration of October 2017. Sergi Sabrià of the Catalan Republican Left also accused the central government of electioneering ahead of the local, regional and European elections of May 26.

“After all these shameful months we have learned that we will only make progress when sincere dialogue replaces electioneering. This will not work just because there is a Catalan speaker in the Senate, or because the airport gets a name change,” said Sabrià, in reference to the Cabinet decision to rename Barcelona-El Prat airport after Josep Tarradellas, a Catalan politician who was exiled under dictator Francisco Franco. “A ‘no’ was inevitable, and it was loud and clear.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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