Fifty minutes of speech have been enough to understand the central elements of the intended political programme of the candidate for the Catalan presidency Quim Torra, in his appeal to the Catalan Parliament for its support this Saturday: to comply with the mandate received in the independence referendum on October 1st last year, to add substance to the Catalan Republic - approved by the Catalan chamber on 27th October but not implemented by the Catalan government - and to draft a proposal for a Catalan constitution. We aspire to everything because we want everything, said the candidate solemnly. And this phrase, as the essence of his discourse, sums up the result of the Catalan elections on December 21st: the pro-independence majority, decided by Catalan voters under conditions of enormous difficulty, must not be wasted.
Torra opted to give a speech that looked at the country through a periscope: its democratic values, identity, economy, ideals, ambitions, failings, insufficiencies; its culture, language, modernity, its nature, its problems, its social and technological challenges, its citizens and its future. Above all, its future. He gave a speech that can be debated, like any other piece of oratory. But it had an indisputable political, cultural and ethical merit. Only an erudite person with a solidly knowledgable background could have given a speech like that of the candidate. And this puts an end to the mantra that has been most heard since it was learned that Torra would be the candidate. Only people who ignore everything and know nothing could use the term puppet to describe someone who justifies political action in terms of cultural values and explains loyalty in terms of personal values. The response to those claims is simple and it is found in Torra's phrase: "Persistirem, insistirem i investirem" - We will persist, we will insist and we will invest [Puigdemont as president].
For the first time since the beginning of this Catalan legislature and thanks to the solemnity of the occasion, it has become apparent in what is said from the parliamentary lecturn that although everything has changed, nothing has changed. The people have certainly changed, but the ideas, the republican project, have not changed. We have gone from the phrase "Here I am at last" spoken by Catalan president Josep Tarradellas 40 years ago, to the present "I shouldn't have to be here" of Quim Torra. These two phrases sum up the story: on October 23, 1977, the old Republican returned to Catalonia from his French exile, after the Spanish state had agreed to restore the Generalitat, the institution of Catalan government, one year before the Spanish constitution was approved. And on October 27, 2017 the Spanish Senate approved the implementation of article 155 of that constitution, the clause which allowed Mariano Rajoy's Spanish government to suppress Catalonia's autonomy, sack its president and government and dismantle its institutions.
Torra's speech is a beacon for independence and a stomach ache for unionism. Which should not surprise those who know him. His direct message to Spain's king Felipe VI, spoken in Spanish, the day after a CEO survey found that the Spanish monarchy is the institution that is least valued and in which the monarch himself headline was rated with a zero, could not be more forceful: "No, not this way, your majesty". That it was a "no" to the televised speech the monarch gave on October 3rd, a "no" to the repression of the independence movement in Catalonia, a "no" to the justice which has been discredited in Europe and a "no" to a government which had made its refusal to engage in dialogue into its trademark. Candidate Torra also addressed Mariano Rajoy, demanding government-to-government dialogue, and to European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker he gave thanks - thanking the EC head for his latest words calling for dialogue - while at the same time reproaching him for the silence of the European institutions in the face of the grave events that have taken place in Catalonia.
It is probable, but not certain - with the CUP nothing is certain - that Torra will be voted as Catalan president in the second investiture vote this Monday. In fact, many must think that this speech should be enough for the CUP deputies to vote for the candidate today. But we will have to wait till Monday to see which way it goes. And to know whether Torra can give life to one of his concluding phrases: Catalonia and the republic are ideals that are, once and for all, inseparable.