Esquerra Republicana (ERC) feels these days as if all eyes in Spanish politics are on it and the decision it will take on Pedro Sánchez's investiture. It's reasonable it should be so since the thirteen seats it achieved in the Congress and its eleven senators, together with its renewed electoral victory in Catalonia last Sunday, grant it a central position when it comes to deciding parliamentary majorities. To put it plainly, if ERC doesn't enable Sánchez's investiture, the most likely scenario is another repeat election.
It's clear, as such, that, in the coming weeks, ERC will notice a pressure its not used to since the interests in play on one side and the other, of all kinds, are far from minor. The pressure it suffered when it promoted the three-way left-wing coalitions, with Maragall and Montilla as presidents of Catalonia, will have been small potatoes besides the vertigo it will suffer from now on.
Unlike PSOE and Unidas Podemos, is going for two things: to go slowly and carefully during the start of the negotiations and to show vice-president Oriol Junqueras as the person on whom falls the weight of the decisions, as a man with Oriol Junqeras' greatest trust and the party's certain candidate for president of Catalonia. Esquerra now has to draft the letter with its requirements for Sánchez to get its support in the Congress and, as far as it can, transfer part of the pressure it receives back onto the other two parties themselves.
It's a political pact in which everyone would win, and a lot, starting with Podemos, who would have an extraordinary amount of power for the first time in recent history. And, behind Iglesias, the always expert PNV, who, stealthily, must already have their file of demands ready. And likewise parties from the Canary Islands, Cantabria, Teruel and Galicia. Nobody, as such, in their right mind can think that the train to the Moncloa government palace which is picking up the necessary votes to reach the prime minister's office can continue on its journey putting aside the demands of the Catalan independence movement for another time.
In part, the situation has hints of three previous moments: the aftermath of the attempted coup on 23rd February 1981, the investiture of José María Aznar in 1996 and his absolute majority in 2000. Let's see.
After that shameful 1981 day with Milans del Bosch, Armada, Tejero and company, Catalan nationalism succumbed to the idea that its demands had to take a back seat under the premise that democracy was at stake; Spanish parties took advantage of that to reverse the more open constitutional approach and close it for good.
15 years went by until Catalan nationalism played an important political move in the Spanish match with the investiture of Aznar. With all the nuance and even criticism that may now be levelled at it, the increase in powers from the so-called Majestic pact was important, in any case, the most important from 1980 to today.
The third moment was the "aznarato", with his absolute majority and the rebirth of rampant and unabashed Spanish nationalism to make up for the humiliation it had meant for them to sign a pact with Pujol and Arzallus. A Pujol in political decline and lacking reflection analysed badly the cost of moving water from the Ebro and the influence of the territory which, in many aspects, has won the battle in Barcelona, although the elites, not just from politics, resist seeing it that way.
Now comes the fourth moment, and the first Esquerra will manage, if it wants, even, alone, among the Catalan pro-independence parties. And with a Catalan election on the horizon, something which cannot be forgotten. Over it hang two swords of Damocles: the situation in Catalonia, exceptional from all perspectives but, especially, from a pro-independence viewpoint. Repression, arrests, prison, exile, contempt and threats, on the one hand; and, on the other, mobilisations, fatigue, an amnesty, an agreed-upon referendum and an empowered society taken steps that appeared impossible. The second sword over its head is the already clear manipulation by the Spanish left of the spectacular growth of Vox with the argument that anyone with them isn't with the far right.
In this middle of this minefield, where matches can also be won, Esquerra will have to forge a path and have greater success than others in the path. The Pedralbes declaration, of 20th December 2018, in which the Sánchez government recognised "the existence of a conflict on the future of Catalonia" could be a starting point. In any case, as Tarradellas said, we Catalans have a propensity to flattery when we go to Madrid and only on our way back, mid-journey (he said "on the train", since he avoided planes whenever he could), do we realise that behind the congratulations of their excellencies and most honourables, the result wasn't the one hoped for. And it's already late.