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With the Catalan government's approval of its draft budget for 2022 and its entry into Parliament, the clock is ticking for the submission of 'no' votes to the budget as a whole, which will decide whether it moves forward to parliamentary proceedings or is returned to the cabinet. This will take place in the plenary meeting of the Catalan chamber to be held, according to the forecasts, on Monday, 22nd November.

As is well known, at present there is no parliamentary majority to guarantee its passage, as the public accounts only have the committed votes of the 63 deputies from Republican Left (ERC) and Together for Catalonia (Junts), insufficient if all the other parliamentary groups voted against. It will not be until next Monday that the Popular Unity Candidature (CUP), the party that facilitated the investiture of Pere Aragonès as president, will find out how its membership has voted and the anti-capitalist party's position will thus be defined. The announcement, if not a 'yes', will be a fracture, possibly even irreversible, in the 52% pro-independence majority achieved in the elections of February 14th.

The Catalan economy minister, Jaume Giró, has presented an ambitious set of public accounts for next year - an increase in expenditure of 5.6 billion euros, 17.3% larger than the last budget passed, in 2020, and the biggest pro-rata rise by absolute value and by percentage since 2007 - and with a very important social spending component, reflected in the fact that 74.6% - three out of every four euros from a budget of 38.1 billion euros - will go to education, health, social rights and housing, employment promotion and public transport. And the draft bill has been presented on the date announced many weeks ago, so that on January 1st next year the budget can be in force if it passes the parliamentary procedure.

Leaving to one side the avalanche of figures contained in the draft budget, the big news in its presentation has been the stress placed by minister Jaume Giró on the need to move it forward. There is only one parliamentary group with whom negotiations have been conducted, the CUP. And there is an indisputable desire to take the budget forward with this party as long as the project is not distorted with impossible requests. But there is also a will, I would say even a need, for a green light to 5.6 million euros more of expenditure, which would be impossible via a mere extension of the current accounts and the forced requirement to cover the public deficit.

The government does not want to move to that scenario, and does well to steer clear of it, confident of a 'yes' vote from the anti-capitalists. But it won't abandon the budget and, if necessary, will seek the votes by way of an abstention from En Comú Podem or the Socialists (PSC). That is the smartest way out if the CUP plants its feet with unviable demands. Perhaps that is why these two non-independence parties had a cautious attitude when it came to positioning themselves on the Catalan budget bill as no one knows for sure how this game will end and where the government will find the support it needs so that on November 22nd there are more votes for proceeding with the draft budget than for throwing it out.

What is clear is that the first major political battle in Catalonia since that played out over the investiture of the President of the Generalitat has been launched. And at stake with it are the direction of the legislature and the agreements that were reached to bring Aragonès to the presidency, including his commitment to face a no-confidence vote in mid-term, in 2023. If the CUP decides not to budge on the budget, everything else will be up in the air.