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Quim Torra: A man of exclusion and conflict

The candidate to be the next premier of Catalonia has made clear he will pursue the divisive push for Catalan independence

Quim Torra.
Quim Torra.G3-CAT / GTRES

A day after showing his – we now know insincere – regret over racist and xenophobic remarks expressed on social networks, Quim Torra went up to the Catalan parliament podium with a precise mission: to make clear to all political forces in parliament, inside and outside of Catalonia, and to the Spanish government, and hence to all Spaniards, that the separatist movement, far from acknowledging any of its serious mistakes, is willing to redouble its effort in the pursuit of unilateral and illegal independence.

Torra doesn’t seem deterred by the fact that this goal has divided Catalan society like never before, forced thousands of companies to leave Catalonia, led to the temporary suspension of self-government and resulted in jail time for the leaders of such colossal folly. On the contrary, it seems to have spurred him on to push forward along the path toward institutional and social conflict.

Secessionists have make clear they have one policy: provocation

The candidate for the premiership also doesn’t seem to care that his goals will, once again, trample  the institutions of self-rule, the will of Catalan society, the rights of parliamentary members, the courts of justice, the statute of autonomy and the Spanish Constitution. With Torra, secessionism is unmasked and we see that in the path to independence, democracy and individual rights are completely dispensable. The creation of an independent republic becomes a religious faith that intrinsically legitimizes any means used to achieve it, without the need to adhere to any legal or democratic framework or show any respect for citizens’ rights.

What’s most serious and worrisome is that his harsh, demagogic speech – lacking the slightest concession or acknowledgment of those who may have different political views in Catalan society – can only be understood as a direct provocation to the state, an attempt to win international favor for secessionist interests, via a strategy of “the worst it gets, the better.”

Nothing of the sort will happen. The European Union will not endorse Torra’s dangerous rhetoric. And neither the state nor the Constitution will be defeated by this new secessionist push. There’s no doubt that the state will react, timely and forcefully, to any attempt to overstep the statute of Catalonia. That is why Catalans should be the ones most concerned about Torra’s speech.

Because, just as with Puigdemont, the only likely consequence of trying to bring forth independence will be the weakening or removal of Catalonia’s right to self-rule. A new secessionist drive will only further divide society and hurt the economy.

The previous Catalan government, which abruptly ended with the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, was characterized by improvisation, short-term maneuvering and hesitation within the secessionist camp. The independence drive advanced in a zig-zag fashion, without a clear goal in sight. But now the situation is quite different, because where Puigdemont improvised, the current candidate is setting out a detailed plan that can only lead to conflict and chaos.

Torra lacks any legitimacy to govern other than the wishes of a former premier who fled because he broke the laws

By affirming that Puigdemont is the legitimate premier, Torra is doing himself a disservice: he acknowledges that he himself lacks any legitimacy to govern other than the wishes of a former premier who fled because he broke the laws that regulate social harmony in Catalonia. Is Torra the man in whom a majority of the regional parliament will place its confidence for its political and economic future?

Elsewhere in Europe, it would be unfathomable that anyone with Torra’s xenophobic and exclusionary credentials could lead a police force of more than 17,000 members, collect taxes to run public services, educate their kids with respect for plurality and guarantee equality and rigor in the news produced and broadcast by public media. But all this, it seems, is indeed possible in the Catalonia of today’s secessionists, who are so detached from the values and principles that have always made it great.

Torra’s appointment, if it happens, will demand a clear and strong response from constitutional parties, through legal means when laws are broken, but especially from a political point of view. Secessionists have made clear they have one policy: provocation. Constitutional parties need to articulate their own policy, one that goes beyond simply reacting to each new step in that provocation.

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