The premier of Catalonia, Quim Torra, took advantage of a reconvened parliament yesterday to threaten to withdraw his support for the Pedro Sánchez government and to return to the path of unilateral independence, if the prime minister does not recognize Catalonia’s right to self-determination.
But this striking announcement was not really addressed to the Spanish government, whose survival does not depend on the support of Catalan pro-independence parties but rather on whether it decides to govern with the budget approved under the former Popular Party government (PP).
Instead it was addressed to the PP and Ciudadanos in the hope that these opposition parties will increase pressure on the Sánchez government to invoke Article 155 of the Constitution (which would strip Catalonia of its autonomous powers) or agree to call new national elections.
In both outcomes, the separatist drive comes out on top. In the first, the application of Article 155 would help Torra achieve the separatist unity that he has been striving to sustain through fiery rhetoric – a strategy that led to the violent scenes on the anniversary of last year’s unauthorized referendum on October 1. And in the second scenario, Torra believes that Sánchez would not win a general election, meaning he would achieve the same result through different means.
The worst mistake that opponents of Catalan independence could make is to deepen their own divisions, mirroring the division now affecting the separatists. They have no obligation to respond to Torra’s ultimatum to the government, an ultimatum whose clumsiness is a clear sign of a leader who has lost credit among his own people, who does not have a democratic majority to justify his proposals, and who until now has backed down on every one of his threats.
If Torra returns to the path of unilateral independence, or rather to the authoritarian imposition of his program, he will carry sole responsibility for it, and we don’t need to remind him of the consequences.
The war of nerves that premier Torra wants to provoke between the parties that don’t support his plans, is in fact his own war and that of those who support him, either openly or passively by letting him drag them towards his own dead end.
It is the Catalan regional government and its premier who, playing with one foot on either side of the institutional fence, have been trapped between the radical separatists who demand Torra stay true to his promise, so often recklessly given, to form a Catalan republic, and the reality that, if he heeds their demands, it will take Catalonia back to a futile and well-known situation, except that this time the risk of civil fracture will be multiplied.
The government of Pedro Sánchez responded to Torra via his spokesperson Isabel Celáa, who rejected invoking Article 155 of the Constitution and called for unity among parties opposed to Catalan independence.
The fact that the latter have not listened does not mean that it is not the right path, the only one that has produced undeniable results for the triumph of democracy and the rule of law every time a political option has tried to illegally impose its will. The threats of premier Torra were out of place, just as many of his speeches have been these days as he switches between the role of fireman and pyromaniac.The best way to force Torra to choose between roles and to stop the independence drive from pushing Catalonia into the abyss is for parties to come together to reject the imposition of independence on the majority of Catalans who don’t want to secede.
English version by Melissa Kitson.