A deal between the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) that would pave the way for caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to be voted back into office by Congress is nearly done. A meeting between negotiators from the two sides on Friday reportedly saw notable advances, while the most delicate part of the agreement has been finalized pending approval by ERC: talks between the central government in Madrid and the Catalan regional government over a possible solution to the political crisis in Catalonia. An investiture vote could now be scheduled to take place between January 2 and 5.
The most delicate part of the agreement has been finalized pending approval by ERC
The PSOE won the repeat general election in November, but as at the April polls fell well short of a majority. In the wake of the vote last month Pedro Sánchez and the leader of left-wing anti-austerity party Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, announced that they had reached a deal to form a coalition government. However, that still left Sánchez short of votes at a potential investiture debate in Congress and talks with other parties have been ongoing in search of votes in favor or, in the case of ERC, abstention.
Once the abstention of the pro-Catalan independence party has been secured, Sánchez will practically be guaranteed success at an investiture vote, given that he already counts on the support of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Más País (a leftist group created by Podemos co-founder Íñigo Errejón), Cantabrian regional party PRC, Valencian regional party Compromís and Canary Islands party Nueva Canarias.
Talks between the PSOE and ERC began shortly after the November 10 general election, but have been long and complicated given the ongoing political situation in Catalonia. The leader of ERC, Oriol Junqueras, is currently serving a prison sentence for his role in the 2017 independence drive in the region. Junqueras could, however, be released from custody – albeit temporarily – in the wake of a ruling from the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) that found that he technically became a Member of the European Parliament as soon as he was elected in the polls held this spring, and that as such, he enjoyed parliamentary immunity from that moment on.
The ERC has since made a number of demands on the PSOE, starting with three negotiators from each party at the table
Before Junqueras was found guilty in the trial, which concluded in October, the ERC had offered its abstention at a Sánchez investiture vote with no demands in exchange. But the Supreme Court sentence on the independence drive changed the political mood in Catalonia, angering supporters of independence who view the jailed independence leaders as “political prisoners.”
The ERC has since made a number of demands on the PSOE, starting with three negotiators from each party at the table; then a meeting to be held in Barcelona; and also that Sánchez begin to use expressions such as “political crisis” when discussing the situation in the northeastern Spanish region. The PSOE has accepted the demands in a bid to win the investiture vote, and avoid having to call what would be the third Spanish general election in the space of a year – the fifth in five years.
The last obstacle was the brief from the solicitor general’s office sent to the Supreme Court, with its views on the way forward with regard to the situation with Junqueras after the CJEU ruling. This document was released today, and calls for the ERC leader to be allowed to be sworn in as an MEP. It does, however, fall short of recommending his release from prison and states that his parliamentary immunity should be suspended as soon as possible by the European Parliament.
For their part, the PSOE and Unidas Podemos are due today at 5pm to release their planned governing deal in Spain’s lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies. If Sánchez’s bid to be voted back into power prospers, Spain would see its first coalition government since the Second Republic.
English version by Simon Hunter.