Once recovered from the electoral knock-back received on 21st December and the confirmation that for the four years of the next legislature there will be a pro-independence majority in the Catalan Parliament, the unionist parties have got to work, it must be said, with great eagerness to demonstrate that they do not consider the battle to be lost. It is from this attitude that there arises the attempt to present it as entirely natural that the Citizens (Cs) party, as the most voted party in the elections, should claim the position of Speaker in the new parliament for one of its own. I will return immediately to this question, but just a side note first: is it certain that the pro-independence forces will be able to take advantage of the 70 representatives that they have won? Will the petty infighting last for many more days?
The Cs party knows that it has no real chance of obtaining the speakership of Parliament, but it is legitimate for the party to try and exploit the contradictions among the winners. The Popular Party (PP) of Alejo Vidal-Quadras did the same thing, in different circumstances, in 1995, and the role of Speaker in the Catalan chamber ended up in the hands of Joan Reventós, of the Catalan Socialists (PSC). It was a case of everybody against Convergencia i Unió, the dominant Catalan centre-right group which had won the elections under its leader Jordi Pujol but had lost its absolute majority. Today's circumstances are different, but this is the only case in which the opposition managed to determine the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament.
How, then, is Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy to play it? In the first place, not to accept any battle as lost and to take advantage of the uncertainties about the possibility that the elected Members of Parliament who are in prison, three of them, along with the five who are in exile, eight seats in total, will actually be able to vote. The pro-independence majority of 70 could be reduced to 62, with a theoretical opposing block of 65 MPs, if the Catalonia in Common - Podem (CeC) group is included. No unionist believes it feasible for the Speaker of Parliament to be anything but a pro-independence representative, but in the current circumstances it could all become highly complicated.
And this is where where the Commons group come into play: the pro-independence parties want to add them to their cause and so do the unionists. If it came to it, the pro-Spain block would be prepared to give them the speakership, if they could, while the pro-Republicans would not do this under any circumstances. But in these negotiations that will now begin, who knows if the Commons will be able to claim a seat which does not correspond to them on Parliament's seven-member presiding Board? The result of the election would proportionately yield a Board with 2 members for Together for Catalonia (JxCAT), 2 for Esquerra Republicana (ERC), two for Cs and one for the PSC. That is, four pro-independence MPs, and three unionists. A place for the Commons would change the balance of this equation, allowing the independence parties three places out of seven - in other words, without a majority.
Given the results of the elections on 21st December this would be quite a prize, and there are also judicial hearings and other elements that may affect parliamentary events. And, with the Catalan government suspended, the autonomy decapitated, who does it fall to summon the constitutive meeting of Parliament to choose the Speaker and the members of the Board? Mariano Rajoy. Within what time limit? Before 23rd January. Before that, acting vice president and MP-elect Oriol Junqueras will appear in front of the Spanish Supreme Court, to which he has presented an appeal against his preventive detention, and on January 11th, two other MPs-elect Joaquim Forn (minister) and Jordi Sánchez (president of the ANC), as well as Jordi Cuixart (president of Òmnium) will appear in front of Supreme Court judge Llarena, who is hearing the case. On these two court appearances hinges the liberty of all four of them.