Esquerra puts kibosh on new government before January

ERC spokesperson Marta Vilalta takes reporters' questions in press conference. Photo: Guillermo Roset/ACN via El Periódico
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Catalonia’s pro-independence Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) party on Monday dashed the hopes of acting President Pedro Sánchez to quickly have a new government in place before the year-end holidays.

A spokesperson for ERC said in a press conference Monday that the party will be unable to conclude any agreement with Sánchez’s Socialist party before January that would include the critical abstention of its 13 congressional deputies in a vote on Sanchez’s candidacy to preside over the next government.

► News Sources: El Periódico, El País and El Diario …

Following the 10th November general election, the PSOE and farther-left Unidas Podemos coalition announced an accord to form a coalition government led by Sánchez, which has since been overwhelming ratified by the membership of those parties and supported by a number of other smaller, regional parties represented in Congress.

But, even with that support, the PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition till falls short of an absolute majority in Spain’s 350-member Congress and needs the abstention of the ERC to ensure victory in a congressional vote on Sánchez’s candidacy to lead the next government.

On Tuesday, negotiators for the ERC and the PSOE will meet in Barcelona in a third session of negotiations toward working out a deal. But, the Catalan party says it is in no hurry to reach an agreement and appears to be waiting for other events related to Catalonia to unfold during the month of December that could have big impacts on the ERC’s negotiating strategy.

Among the upcoming events:

► On Thursday, the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) is set to rule on whether or not current Catalan President Quim Torra is guilty of disobeying the orders of Spain’s Junta Electoral elections board last Spring by failing to remove yellow-ribbon symbols from public buildings that the board deemed partisan and therefore in violation of Spanish electoral legislation. If convicted, Torra could be barred from holding public office and forced to step down, triggering snap regional elections in Catalonia and a change in ERC strategy for gaining control of the regional Generalitat government.

► On Saturday, the Catalan regional penitentiary authority faces a deadline for deciding on the status of the prisoners convicted in October by Spain’s Supreme Court on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds in relation to events events surrounding the unconstitutional October 17 independence referendum in Catalonia. Prosecutors in the Spanish government’s Fiscalía attorney general’s office have said that if the conditions for the regime under which the prisoners are to be held are too lenient, they will appeal the decision by the Catalan authorities — the ERC has called on the acting government of Pedro Sánchez to intervene to stop the Fiscalía from appealing.

► Next week, the European Court of Justice is set to rule as to whether or not ERC leader Oriol Junqueras should have been granted immunity from prosecution as a result of his election to the European Parliament last May and therefore should not have been tried by Spain’s Supreme Court for his role in the events leading to the 2017 referendum and declaration of independence by the Catalan regional Parlament. Junqueras is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence after being convicted in October on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds and his lawyers will ask for his immediate release from prison if the European court rules in his favour.

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