MADRID – The current Spanish candidate for Prime Minister, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, has announced his intention to include the nationalist Catalan party, Junts, in the upcoming negotiation rounds in Congress.
This acknowledgement has buoyed former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who sees this as a victory and an opportunity to reopen dialogue with the Partido Popular (PP). While Puigdemont is aware that the PP is unlikely to meet his ultimate demands, he views this engagement as a tactic to strengthen his negotiating position with the current Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
Controversial demand: Recognition of the 1-O referendum
According to sources close to Junts, one of Puigdemont’s conditions for supporting Feijóo will be the recognition of the 1-O referendum held on October 1, 2017, as a legitimate referendum. This move echoes the ‘generosity’ of José María Aznar in 1998 when he described ETA as a “Basque liberation movement” after the terrorist group declared a ceasefire. With this historical context in mind, Puigdemont expects Feijóo to be ‘equally generous’ and acknowledge the ‘repression’ by Mariano Rajoy’s government, culminating in the invocation of Article 155 of the Constitution, which suspended Catalonia’s autonomy for seven months.
Internal friction within the PP
However, not everyone within the PP agrees with negotiating with Catalan nationalists. Alejandro Fernández, the leader of the Catalan PP, expressed his disapproval, emphasising that Junts remains a “political rival” for him.
Senate as a testing ground
The real test will unfold in the Senate, where the Socialist Party (PSOE) has ceded some of its seats to Junts and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) to help them form their parliamentary group. The PP now faces a pivotal decision on whether to block or allow this move. The party has requested a legal report to evaluate the situation.
Should PP decide to block the formation of the new group, both Junts and PNV are likely to interpret this as an ‘insult,’ adding tensions to the upcoming negotiations for a new government.
While it’s unclear what instructions Feijóo will give to his party, it seems likely that he will choose to block the formation of the new group, as reported by El Confidencial based on party sources.
Uncertain path to government formation
While Moncloa views PP’s willingness to engage with Puigdemont positively, the path to a new government remains far from assured. The negotiations are expected to be difficult, and neither the investiture nor the governability of Spain is guaranteed at this point. In light of profound ideological differences, the willingness to collaborate within the intricate landscape of Spanish politics seems minimal at best.