The legislature faces the last curve before the final stretch towards the general elections in December 2023 with the coalition government based on a parliamentary majority that is as fragmented as, in view of the results, also robust. So much so that the Executive is preparing to carry out its third General State Budgets in a timely manner. Quite a feat if compared to the last mandate of Mariano Rajoy and if one takes into account, furthermore, that now that parliamentary majority falls on the seats of up to a dozen different political formations.
Once the process of the amendments to the entire opposition has been passed, PSOE and United We Can once again plan to give the green light to these accounts. And by a wide margin. The norm throughout the legislature has not been that advantage, but it has been a scenario of votes repeatedly won in Congress by the Government, many of them in extremis and before the astonished gaze of a right that predicted to see in real time the dismemberment of “Frankenstein”.
Since the investiture, the relationship of the government parties with their allies in Congress has suffered ups and downs. But looking back serves to assess the level of reliability of the wide range of partners that Pedro Sánchez has needed to legislate. And beyond the noise, the overacting and the reproaches, the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) has established itself as one of the most stable: a key player in the investiture, without amendments to the entirety of any of the Budgets (although it threatened to do so until the last moment) and with the support of the vast majority of the coalition’s legislative arsenal, the Catalan separatists have become a de facto strategic ally of the Executive. Something for which, due to the relationship of forces between the pro-independence parties and the very codes of Catalan politics, they do not have much interest in bragging about.
The legislature, however, began with very different pieces from those that dominate the political chessboard of the Moncloa-Generalitat relationship today. In Catalonia, ERC was the minority partner of a Government presided over by Quim Torra, a benchmark of the most exalted independence movement. And the political leaders accused by the procés were behind bars awaiting a sentence that ended up confirming their sentences. A true political and social powder keg inherited by Sánchez from the times of Rajoy and Puigdemont.
With Esquerra’s return to pragmatism and his burial of the procés and unilateralism, Pedro Sánchez’s need for the Republican votes in Congress coincided, in addition to the president’s willingness to address “the reunion” with Catalonia. A propitious terrain for the Sánchez-Aragonés relationship to become strategic. From the deep ideological gaps that separate them, both conspired to establish a path of armored collaboration against those who preferred everything to go wrong. And they founded a new union of reciprocal interests: that everything would turn out well or, at least, that those who claimed otherwise would not succeed.
From this premise, the dialogue table was born in times of Torra (who did not feel any appreciation for that table), a political commitment of the ERC and the Government and a forum in which Moncloa and the Generalitat commit to work to find a political solution to the so-called Catalan conflict. Without great progress at the moment, the main achievement of that table to date is its mere existence, with the guarantee of direct and permanent communication that it entails between both parties, entrusted not to derail it. The contribution to the Catalan political normalization of pardons for pro-independence leaders and the victory of ERC in the last elections did nothing but strengthen this scenario of collaboration that even from now on could be strengthened after the departure of Junts from the Government.
From the PSOE and from the PSC they have already repeated in public and in private that they are reaching out to those from Aragonés to govern Catalonia from now on not only as a minority, but with the direct opposition of those who were their partners. And what the Government hopes is that this scenario of “reciprocal dependency” (Sánchez needs the ERC in Congress and Aragonés the PSC in the parliament) further smoothes the understanding between both parties. A harmony that has been staged in recent days even on a particularly thorny issue, such as the reform of the terms of the crime of sedition in the Penal Code.
President Sánchez has defended the adaptation to the European framework of the classification of this crime as a personal and legislative “commitment”. “One of the main lessons that we have to draw from the situation that Spain experienced, so dramatic, of disagreement and bankruptcy, in 2017, is the need to standardize some types of crime in our Penal Code to the European context to which we belong”, the president said this week.
For months now there has been a direct line from Madrid with Barcelona to advance in the development of specific measures such as the reform of the Penal Code, which Esquerra would like to see more extensive. In addition to the criminal reduction of the sedition that this week caused the breakdown of the PP of the negotiations on the Judicial Power (on the table is the possibility that the sentences decrease to approximately half), the Catalan independentistas aspire to that the “ dejudialization” also includes the dozens of intermediate political positions for pending cases related to the procés that imply disqualification and prison sentences for embezzlement. As far as sedition is concerned, it does seem that total agreement has already been reached. “Anyone who has a little memory knows that we have always said that it is good news to democratize the Criminal Code and that it be the most comparable to what happens in Europe in terms of crime,” said the Republican spokesman, Gabriel Rufián, also this week in the corridors of Congress when asked if they would accept a reduction in the sentence for that crime. The reform, well channeled by both parties, has been the latest excuse offered by the PP to blow up for the umpteenth time the constitutional renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary.
The more than predictable support of the ERC for the General State Budgets and the reform of the Criminal Code in the terms proposed is a good example that the relationship between the PSOE and the Republicans arrives well oiled at the end of the legislature, definitively leaving behind the moments of increased political tension between the two partners. Because both the labor reform and the scandal of the alleged spying on independence leaders by the CNI shook the foundations of understanding.
With the new labor legislation led by Yolanda Díaz, the coalition government exhibited the moment of greatest parliamentary weakness in the legislature. Without the support of the ERC, but neither of other strategic allies such as Bildu or the PNV, only an error by a PP deputy allowed one of the Executive’s structural reforms to be carried out. That episode became a first-rate confrontation between the Republicans and the second vice president, with echoes that still resound today.
And the other great threat to the so-called “investiture majority” was linked to the ‘Pegasus’ scandal: the CNI’s wiretapping of Catalan independence leaders that led the ERC and the Generalitat to officially “suspend” collaboration with the Government of Spain. In Moncloa they maintain that this crisis was managed without communication completely disappearing at any time. An episode from which the page was turned after the dismissal of the director of the CNI by the Executive of Pedro Sánchez.
During the last three years, some accusations and reproaches by Esquerra both to the PSOE and to the Prime Minister have resounded inside and outside the chamber. One of the last times, in the midst of the debate on the state of the nation, Gabriel Rufián’s accusation of Pedro Sánchez of collusion with the Moroccan police forces for the death of dozens of people on the Melilla border especially stung the leader of the Executive. “Why are 130 Africans a mafia and 130,000 Ukrainians a cause? Why is killing with sticks and bullets on the southern border less serious than killing with bombs in a shopping center in Ukraine?” Rufián told the president. exhibiting three bullets on the tribune of Congress. “Today he was seriously mistaken. The mere display of bullets in this chamber is an unforgivable mistake,” Sánchez replied.
From the PSOE they are convinced that the parliamentary and media attitude of their Catalan partners has a large part of “performance” and that it is related to the eternal competition with Junts for the pro-independence electorate. “They have behaved like a stable partner but they are obsessed with not seeming so”, reasons a veteran leader of the PSC. From Esquerra, in fact, they have been striving in recent weeks so that Junts’ departure from the Government does not go hand in hand with a formal staging of the approach to the Socialists. Even before a photo between Pere Aragonés and Salvador Illa sealing something similar to a legislature pact, the Republicans advocate extending the Catalan budgets for another year. Although the collaboration between the two goes further, as long as it is not too noticeable.