Catalan president Carles Puigdemont seems ready to bow to pressure from the Spanish state by dissolving parliament for new elections.
This would be a dramatic climbdown, conceding to right wing Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s demands with nothing to show for it in return.
Puigdemont had been due to address the Catalan parliament on Thursday, to respond to Rajoy’s moves to dissolve the Catalan government.
It would have been his last chance to declare independence, in line with the results of a referendum held in defiance of Spanish police repression on 1 October.
Instead Puigdemont was reported to be preparing to call snap elections scheduled for 20 December.
The initial response from Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP) suggested that even this might not be enough to halt the moves to impose direct rule under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution.
Tens of thousands of students were protesting in Barcelona when reports of Puigdemont’s intentions came through. It was part of a two-day student strike against Spanish repression.
Student Marina Morante told Socialist Worker, “Everyone was very angry when we heard reports that Puigdemont was going to dissolve parliament and call new elections.
“We went to the central square, Plaza de Sant Jaume, to watch him speak. People were shouting ‘independent republic’ and ‘Puigdemont resign!’”
There were chants of “The people will not forgive” and “We have voted, apply the result”. Puigdemont then cancelled his speech.
Protestors demanded the freedom of independence campaign leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, jailed last week pending trial for “sedition”. Puigdemont condemned their jailing, but a U-turn would leave them behind bars.
It took a mass movement to inspire ordinary Catalans to support the referendum and to vote in large numbers for independence. That movement allowed them to defy Rajoy’s repression.
Waiting for new elections would vindicate that repression and sap that movement of its strength.
Rajoy’s gamble is that demoralised independence supporters won’t even turn out to maintain the pro-independence parties’ slim majority.
Disgracefully the Labour-type PSOE had also called for elections.
Puigdemont’s centre-right party governs in coalition with the reformist Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and smaller parties, with the support of the anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidature (CUP).
One prominent ERC MP, Gabriel Rufian, condemned Puigdemont with a popular tweet saying “155 pieces of silver”. Another government MP, Antoni Castella of the smaller party
Democrats, vowed that it “won’t turn its back on the people.”
David Karvala, from revolutionary socialist group Marx21, told Socialist Worker, “The pressure to sell out is coming largely from within the softer parts of Puigdemont’s own party.
“The CUP is against it. And the ERC was saying Puigdemont should not call elections but declare independence. A lot depends on whether it sticks to that position or does a U-turn.”
It’s far from clear how the movement will respond if Puigdemont’s betrayal is confirmed. But it’s clear that if any hope for winning Catalan independence remains, it’s not with the cowardly elites.
The protests must continue—and spread to strikes.