Pardons And The Weakness Of The Government, According To Junqueras

Pedro mascarilla españitaSpanish PM Pedro Sánchez at the Parliament debate

Fernando González Urbaneja | Oriol Junqueras (the imprisoned ERC leader) is one of the “great electors” of Spanish politics who, from his office in prison, sets the pace of events; a letter from him delivered to two news media, after a procedural pact with the government, has served as an alibi and an argument to justify the pardons for the leaders of the Catalan insurrection of 2017. These pardons have been converted by the government into a pillar on which to base what it calls a “reencounter” with Catalan society, more specifically with its pro-independence half.

In the next line of his agreed document, Junqueras has interpreted the reason for this possible or presumed “reencounter” as being none other than the weakness of the Sánchez government. Other interpreters of the pro-independence movement add the argument of fear that European bodies, of greater or lesser stature, will criticise the Supreme Court’s ruling as unjust or excessive. This last argument confuses wishful thinking with reality, the temptation for the indepes to resort to external support is perpetual; at the time they argued that their unilateral declaration would provoke an untenable decline in Spain’s debt rating, forcing the Rajoy government to negotiate and assume independence. That was the wish; the reality was that the only thing that dropped was the Catalan debt rating, which became junk, rejected by all investors. If the Generalitat has been able to meet its payments since then, it is because of the unconditional credit from the Kingdom of Spain.

Nevertheless, Junqueras’ thesis about the weakness of the government is self-serving in order to justify a negotiating strategy far removed from the unilateralism agreed with his partners, and is deserving of some verification. Of course, Sánchez’s is a weak government. From the very first minute, from the moment he won the motion of censure against Rajoy in June 2018, until he achieved the investiture of the first social-communist coalition government at end-2019; and from then until today. A weak government that has to negotiate every decision and swallow more than a few demands from its partners, but at the same time an unbeatable government due to the absence of an alternative. Similar to a critically ill person in very good health.

The pardons today appear to be a transcendental, very brave, decisive decision that will unblock the Catalan crisis. It is a decision on which we must take a stand and align ourselves, for or against. Although in reality, beyond the propaganda and the narrative, it is an instrumental decision, a rehearsal to justify other more important decisions.
The saying that all’s well that ends well applies here. This was the CEOE president’s excuse to clarify his ill-considered response to a question at an impromptu press conference. If it ends well (without specifying what ends well), the pardons will have been a positive milestone in the disagreement between the Catalans. Although it is also possible that it is just one more skirmish in the “involvement,” a kick at the ball to get things moving along. For the moment, a lot of noise, a lot of storytelling, a lot of literature so that everyone stays in their own corner. Junqueras is right, this is a weak but lasting government; just as Junqueras and ERC are weak but inevitable.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.