It wasn't in a cafe in Prenzlauer Berg, one of the trendy neighbourhoods in Berlin, nor were the participants Carles Puigdemont and two envoys from Pedro Sánchez, but goodness me it can be limited, at times, the difference between a fake article (in Catalan) and reality. It was in Madrid, in the NH Ribera del Manzanares hotel, right by the Vicente Calderón stadium. And the meetings included the possible future deputy Spanish prime minister, José Luis Ábalos, the person the most like a good old secretary of organisation PSOE has -the ones that today threaten you with a new 155 ("the second time isn't as difficult as the first"), and tomorrow offer you a ministry- and the heads of the groups in Congress of ERC (Joan Tardà), EAJ (Aitor Esteban) and PDeCAT (Carles Campuzano and Jordi Xuclà). 48 hours later, Sánchez became prime minister of Spain, triumphing by a wide margin and against the predictions of many for his motion of no-confidence to topple Mariano Rajoy. The stars had aligned and lead to the PSOE leader, the reborn, the man who had been defenestrated by the party's old guard, the Ibex 35 and the El País newspaper, taking office this Saturday just half an hour before Quim Torra's definitive government. In the ceremony at the government palace, those absent -the prisoners and exiles, represented by their families-, counted for as much as those present: former Catalan presidents Pasqual Maragall, José Montilla and Artur Mas. Sometimes, the theatre of history, and politics, (and life), is a whirlwind which throws the logic of the times up in the air; and everything is a moment, a now, in which it seems that yesterday, what could have been, is to come, and the future comes loaded with pasts.
Rajoy has been swept aside by the accusing finger of the National Audience judge who sentenced the executives of the Gürtel board of directors (Barcenas and company) whilst its chair, José María Aznar, flies free. From those kinds of dust come these kinds of (putrefied) mud and it made it difficult for EAJ, once the mechanism of the motion of no-confidence was activiated, to go on the attack with the blame. But the decision by ERC and PDeCAT was the factor that, by fluke, put the Basques in Sánchez's court. Sánchez, as a result, owes his premiership to EAJ, but even more so to the Catalan independence movement. As the days pass, it will be seen that in these hyperaccelerated (and dynamic) political times there will be a before and an after of Rajoy's eviction from the Moncloa government palace, like there's a before and an after of last year's 1st October referendum and the non-independence of the 27th of that month, its epilogue. The unexpected triumph of Sánchez's no-confidence motion has opened up windows of opportunity for many political actors; or, at least, it tags them, sketches them out on the complex chessboard of Spain and Catalonia. Focal points, even, of opposing interests. Hence the generalised confusion which still reigns in all the actors, starting with Sánchez himself..
Merkel must be thinking that the sudden fall of her partner Rajoy is a gift from heaven for Spain to not become a second Italy: so that the national-populist Albert Rivera -"I only see Spaniards"- doesn't come to power
Not far from Prenzlauer Berg, chancellor Angela Merkel must be thinking that the sudden fall of her partner Rajoy is a gift from heaven for Spain to not become a second Italy: so that the national-populist Albert Rivera -"I only see Spaniards"- doesn't come to power. Or, at least, that he won't do so via the cakewall predicted by the polls. Rivera, utterly blindsided, is the second victim of Sánchez's motion of no-confidence: the two-party system, after the failure of Rajoy's precarious premiership, is trialling a new path to postpone its final sacrifice at the hands of the newcomers. It's certain that the maneouvre needed the participation of the other new national-populist Spanish leader, Pablo Iglesias, but remember that the challenger to storm heaven will live in a 600,000 euro chalet with "permission" from Podemos's membership. Pablo is now a member of the class: the system has new stabilisers on its left. And if Merkel is satisfied with the firewall that Sánchez has put up around Ciudadanos, no less satisfied should be part of the political, economic and media coalition which had to bless the "A por ellos" (Go get 'em) and the arrival of the 155 regime. In the Catalan quarrel, Spain has started to scare itself and the absurd image of the platoons of the far-right removing yellow loops and crosses, applauded by Rivera and Carrizosa, has a lot to do with it. The unionist hyperventilation, however much it's dressed up as Ciudadanos, goes against the climate of easing tensions which, supposedly, can be favoured by the formal lifting of article 155. Sánchez's motion leaves Rivera back where he was: 32 deputies, that is, 105 fewer than PP, 53 fewer than PSOE and 39 fewer than Podemos and its allies.
The unionist hyperventilation, however much it's dressed up as Ciudadanos, goes against the climate of easing tensions which, supposedly, can be favoured by the formal lifting of article 155
Article 155 having been, it seems, lifted, and with Rajoy out as prime minister of Spain, Rivera, in short, is an obstacle to any attempt at dialogue between Sánchez's and Torra's governments. Many are rushing now, however, to point out the other obstacle: Puigdemont. His normal adversaries are saying it, but the rumbling is also being heard as friendly fire. Not so much from ERC, for whom the satisfaction that the San Sebastián pact 2.0 has been revived in Madrid again, even if only for a while, joins that from the formation of a government in Catalonia and, as a result, the distancing of new elections. It's from PDeCAT, which over these days has again played the (successful) role of the former Convergència, which will soon mark Puigdemont as an obstacle to a still mythical time: that of dialogue. What's not as clear is that which Puigdemont is blocking or might block: the release of the prisoners and exiles (amnesty)?; the recognition of the violence deployed by the state on 1st October?; the effective lifting of the control over the Catalan government's finances?; the restitution of the powers in the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy struck down by the blow from the Constitutional Court?; the final acceptance of a consultation in the Scottish style, negotiated, with the state? or maybe the list of topics for dialogue could be different at that time?
Once again, it starts from a false parallel: Rajoy out of the picture, Puigdemont should also step aside
Once again, it starts from a false parallel: Rajoy out of the picture, Puigdemont should also step aside. But, can Arrimadas maybe present a motion of no-confidence against him? No, thanks to the Spanish justice system, which is preventing Puigdemont from realising his political rights in full by taking his seat in the Parliament, like the rest of the exiles and prisoners elected on 21st December. The designation of Puigdemont, in any case, as the next obstacle to overcome is, in any case, the path being invoked to neutralise the (uncomfortable) reality: that there will be no dialogue and negotiation between the governments of Sánchez -or whoever- and Catalonia as long as Madrid doesn't recognise that it's Puigdemont, and no one else, who's the "actual" president of Catalonia. Like it or not, but it's the state, the Spanish justice system which has created this situation.
Pedro Sánchez, who has done well to recognise Quim Torra's presidency and "legal" government, the same Quim Torra he called "racist" and "xenophobic" just days ago, would do much better still to call Berlin. Pablo Iglesias did so and understood it immediately (even if Ada Colau and Xavier Domènech pretend otherwise). More in the short than the long-term, the political future of the brand-new Spanish prime minister could depend on that call.