The coalition government of Catalonia is on the brink of collapse due to disagreement over how the region should attempt to achieve independence from Spain.
The executive of Together for Catalonia (JxCat), the junior partner in the pro-independence coalition, will ask its members to vote on whether or not to remain in government with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC). The vote will be held on October 6th and 7th.
The two parties have governed Catalonia together since 2016 and this coalition administration was formed in 2021, led by Pere Aragonès of ERC. Tensions have been apparent throughout the legislature, mainly stemming from differing strategies on the issue of secession, and they have come to a head this week.
After a 2017 Catalan bid for independence failed, ERC and Mr Aragonès have committed themselves to engaging with the Spanish government with the ultimate goal of negotiating a legally binding secession referendum. ERC has also provided parliamentary support to the Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez in the national congress.
This week, Mr Aragonès reiterated his strategy, inspired by legislation aimed at promoting a referendum in Canada. Speaking in the Catalan parliament, he called for the need to broaden domestic and international support for a referendum.
“The broader the support, the greater the consensus [and] the greater the strength we’ll have to defend the position of Catalonia before [Spanish] state,” the Catalan leader said.
However, JxCat, which takes a more strident approach to independence, has long been sceptical about engaging in talks with Madrid. After his latest proposal, the party called for Mr Aragonès to face a confidence motion in the regional parliament, on the grounds that he was failing to follow through on the two parties’ agreed strategy regarding secession. Mr Aragonès responded by sacking his vice-president, Jordi Puigneró of JxCat, triggering the junior partner’s decision to abandon the administration.
“We feel very much expelled from the government,” Jordi Turull, secretary general of JxCat, told local radio.
JxCat’s executive held a marathon meeting on Thursday before deciding to ask its members to vote on whether it should remain in the coalition.
This crisis comes just ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the 2017 referendum, and it highlights the relative weakness and divided nature of the independence movement compared to five years ago.
That vote led to a unilateral declaration of independence which saw the Spanish government temporarily introduce direct rule in Catalonia. Several independence leaders subsequently fled abroad, where several of them remain, and nine others were jailed, before receiving government pardons last year.
The collapse of the Catalan coalition would leave ERC, which has only 33 seats in the 135-seat chamber, isolated. A snap election looks unlikely, given that the last vote was only 18 months ago.
If JxCat were to leave the government, a more likely scenario would be for ERC to seek confidence-and-supply deals with parties that do not support independence but with which it shares common ground on social and economic matters. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and the Catalan wing of the leftist Podemos are the most obvious candidates for such partnerships.