With the agreement of almost all parties - the PSC being the major exception - Catalonia's parliamentary elections have been postponed for more than three months, due to the coronavirus situation. Catalan vice president Pere Aragonès this Friday afternoon signed the decree that replaces the original 14th February date with a new appointment with the polls on 30th May. "Maintaining the schedule as it had been planned was an unacceptable risk in terms of public health and an obstacle to getting voters to turn out as required for the elections," he said in an address. He also thanked the parties for their willingness and understanding to accept the new date.
"I ask that we all maintain the responsible attitude that we have shown today. That we keep the pandemic separate from the electoral dispute. Let's not contribute to confusing the public in a context as difficult as the current one, out of pure electoral calculation. Let's be responsible," he claimed in his press appearance, accompanied by the presidency minister, Meritxell Budó.
It was the final word after a week of negotiations among all the Catalan parliamentary parties to agree on a measure not contemplated in the legislation - that is, the suspension of an election already called. This Friday morning, Aragonés led a meeting with the political parties accompanied by much of the government, in which he set out the executive's plans to delay the elections until May 30th. The Catalan Socialists (PSC) were the group that was most reluctant to accept this timetable, and it has not ruled out the possibility of an appeal.
Both at the meeting and in his public appearance, Aragonés guaranteed that the executive will appear "as much as necessary" in Parliament's Permanent Council - since Parliament itself has now been dissolved - in order to give explanations about the government's actions, and to look for "spaces of dialogue and cooperation" with all political forces.
The most difficult weeks
Vice president Aragonès, who has been acting president since the removal of Quim Torra by the Spanish Supreme Court last autumn, stated that the elections have been postponed until May 30th so that the electoral process does not coincide with the most difficult weeks of the pandemic's third wave and so that no one will have to give up their right to vote for fear of becoming infected. "There are weeks ahead when we should all be focused solely on the evolution of the pandemic and the need to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed," he warned.
He assured that they had chosen May 30th as the new date because it will present "a climate less conducive to the pandemic and a large part of the population will already be vaccinated." However, the government decree provides that before the new election date is formally called, a "new analysis of epidemiological and public health circumstances" will have to be addressed and a new debate will take place within the government.
Catalan Socialists and PDeCAT, not in favour
This morning Aragonés and part of the executive had met with the political parties committee in Parliament to communicate the proposed new calendar. The debate today was no longer on whether the elections were to be postponed, but until when. The initial goal of the executive was to reach a unanimous consensus, to avoid possible legal retaliation.
But it was not possible. Six of the eight parties accepted the change, but two did not: the pro-independence PDeCAT, and especially, the Catalan Socialists (PSC), whose leader, Miquel Iceta, made it clear in a press statements that his party "opposes the postponement" and does not rule out challenging it.
In an address that sounded like a campaign speech, Iceta replied to his opponents that "Salvador Illa's victory will take place on May 30th as it would have happened on February 14. You can postpone the change, but you can't stop it." The attitude of the PSC led to a rain of criticism from the other parties, with Carlos Carrizosa, of Ciudadanos accusing the Socialists of being "negationists", while ERC's Sergi Sabrià described the party's stand as a "cynical exercise in electoralism".
The PDeCAT has also made public its disagreement with the chosen date. The former JxCat allies had proposed a date between April 25th and May 15th. They complained that they had not been given “any health criteria” to argue that May 30th was better.