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An extremist rises to power

Torra’s start has been dismal; the government made a mistake by not showing up; Sánchez is right to offer support

Quim Torra is sworn in as the premier of Catalonia.
Quim Torra is sworn in as the premier of Catalonia.Ruben Moreno Garcia (AP)

The bare-bones ceremony at which Quim Torra took office as the new Catalan premier on Thursday is of singular importance, as all symbolic events are. Above all, it expressed what little appreciation the new leader has for the Generalitat, the historic institution of Catalan self-government. And it also illustrated his scant willingness to recognize the Catalan parliament as a source of legitimacy, since he does not even consider himself a full-fledged premier with all the powers that come with such office, but rather as a stand-in at the service of a fugitive from justice.

Additionally, it underscored to what extent secessionist degradation has perfected its own sense of opportunism. It is not even capable of giving its own people the right, which they earned at the polls, to have a normal, serious, competent executive. Instead, it takes every opportunity to make the most of every legal loophole – which exist in democracies, though not so much in autocracies – that might favor partisan self-benefit, power privileges for members of the sect, and even personal perks.

Separatism is not even capable of giving its own people the right to have a normal, serious, competent executive

Autonomous power, they say to themselves, but only to destroy it from within in favor of an increasingly radical and racist form of separatism, mirroring the positions held by Torra’s friends in Italy’s League or by xenophobic Flemish nationalists. None of which deters or even curbs some of the movement’s leading ideologues and journalists, who were once progressives and who now risk ending up like another notable proto-socialist, Benito Mussolini. Their silence is what stands out the most about the radical drift symbolized by Torra.

The central government has also been affected by the institutional corrosion evident at the Generalitat’s only inauguration unworthy of that name – and there were controversial ones in the past, especially during the difficult circumstances of exile under Franco, which was a real exile.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should not have washed his hands because of the likelihood that the ceremony would demonstrate bad faith; on the contrary, he should have been there with a delegation of high-ranking officials, as representatives of an entity initiating the transfer of power, and out of political responsibility towards citizens who are only feeling marginally relieved ever since the Catalan governing team who perpetrated the September coup was fired. To govern means to be present, in good times and in bad, and to demonstrate the strength of the rule of law, its principles and democratic values.

Torra consider himself as a stand-in at the service of a fugitive from justice

It was also wrong to set up the meetings between Rajoy and opposition leaders Pedro Sánchez and Albert Rivera the way they were, with a premeditated effort to belittle the head of Ciudadanos in connivance with the leader of the Socialist Party. All of them must make efforts to rebuild their unity. And it that sense, it is worth praising Sánchez’s decision to support the executive in a fundamental matter of state, and even more so his proposals for indispensable legal reforms to make it harder for secessionists to keep taking advantage of legal loopholes, which has become the movement’s specialty. Let’s trust that constitutional unity will hold together in the likely event that Article 155 should have to be implemented once again, as its current edition cannot legally be extended as Ciudadanos wants to do.

In the meantime, the most positive thing about this inauguration is that it undercuts the slanderous claim that people are going to jail in Spain for having separatist ideas. In Spain, a separatist can be the head of the Catalan government...as long as no crimes are committed.


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