Three weeks ago, the last time Pedro Sánchez met his executive, the day after the elections, the feeling that was experienced was euphoria, according to several of those present. Against the forecast, once again, the leader of the PSOE had achieved an extraordinary result, improving in votes and seats, and above all the right did not add up. La Moncloa was again within range. Already then, those who know Junts best within the PSOE warned: beware that it is going to be very difficult. But the unexpected success covered everything.
Three weeks later, the atmosphere has gone from euphoria to an evident uncertainty that was breathed in the circles of socialist power and in the executive itself, although with the confidence that in the end a way out will be found. Carles Puigdemont could blow everything up and make it easier for the PP to be the presidency of Congress, something that would almost inexorably lead to new elections because it seems impossible that Sánchez can govern in a minority, with an absolute majority of the PP in the Senate, depending on Junts for each vote and with the Board of Congress against it, which can block many initiatives. Already at night, the sensations that were transferred were more optimistic, but without certainties until Junts decides.
The negotiators have encountered a fundamental problem that is reflected in the message of the fugitive Catalan ex-president on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter: the enormous distrust he has with the Socialists. During these six years, while the PSOE built many links at all levels with the ERC, no one from Pedro Sánchez’s entourage established any contact with Puigdemont, while his faithful deputies voted against almost everything. Rebuilding those broken bridges seems much more difficult than what was achieved with ERC in 2019, when the PSOE negotiated with the Republicans with its leader, Oriol Junqueras, in jail and recently sentenced to 13 years. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. And in recent weeks, with great discretion, they are trying to build those bridges.
Puigdemont speaks of mistrust and demands “verifiable facts.” In Junts’ rhetoric is the idea that ERC has sold its votes to the PSOE for nothing. But the truth is that in these four years, Sánchez has made several important decisions published in the BOE, relevant verifiable facts, so much so that they have come close to costing him the Government, because, according to surveys and he himself admitted in the campaign, are the ones that could make him lose the most votes. The most obvious is that of the pardons for the prisoners of the process, after four years in prison. Throughout the campaign, Sánchez repeated that he knew that there were many people who had voted for the PSOE in 2019 and who were hesitating to do so again because they did not understand the pardons, in June 2021. These, in fact, also benefited Junts, since among those pardoned was Jordi Turull, his current general secretary, and Jordi Sànchez, his predecessor in office.
But then Sánchez went further, and changed the Penal Code to benefit the independentistas -also those of Junts- with the repeal of the crime of sedition and the reform of embezzlement, last December, which reduced the possible penalties to a third. from jail. A decision that caused a political earthquake, with the Constitutional Court preventing a vote in the Senate for the first time in a democracy, and which entailed enormous wear and tear on the Government. In fact, one of the beneficiaries of this reform is Puigdemont himself, who is no longer accused of sedition —the crime has disappeared— and neither for the new crime of aggravated public disorder, because the Supreme Court interprets that it is not valid for the process . So his possible sentence has been significantly reduced.
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In addition to these major decisions, the most controversial, the Government has taken many others favorable to the interests of the independentistas, especially with the positions of the State Attorney, which withdrew from the case opened by the Court of Accounts before the alleged embezzlement of public funds in illegal expenses to promote the process abroad; or that she has not requested the arrest of Puigdemont after the ruling of the General Court of the European Union that decided to withdraw the parliamentary immunity of the former Catalan president. The Government itself renounced resorting to the Constitutional Court the language decree approved in extremis by the Catalan Executive to not comply with the sentence that obliges it to teach at least 25% of classes in Spanish.
But Puigdemont insists that he wants “verifiable facts” and not vague promises, and that is what is on the negotiating table, not just for the Congress table, but above all for the investiture. There, concrete progress will be necessary on very sensitive issues, especially the so-called amnesty, which has a huge problem: the previous movement, with an important change to the Penal Code, was rejected outright by the Supreme Court, which considered it a legal botch. But the former president, regardless of rhetoric and mistrust after years without contact with the PSOE, does know that Sánchez is willing to risk a lot politically to give a political solution to the destruction of the process, as he has shown over the years.
Among the problems of a very complex negotiation, there is another one of pure political competition that is very important: Puigdemont wants to show that he achieves things that ERC could never achieve. And that is one of the most complicated points of the negotiation. The tension between Junts and ERC makes it very difficult to satisfy both in the same deal. Both want to be the architects of any advance. The unity of action between them remains a chimera. And the Government needs the votes of both. He doesn’t have one left over. That is why the PSOE and Sumar hold their breath before the first litmus test of the new majority: the table vote. If they fall for this, the electoral repetition will become the most likely. But even if they don’t, there’s still a long way to go to avoid that repetition, which would be a huge second chance for Alberto Núñez Feijóo to win the right-wing majority that this time he failed by five seats.
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