Elections in Catalonia: Miscalculation of Rajoy

The Spanish government of the People's Party miscalculated its forecast: a quick resolution of the Catalonian political crisis did not happen. Nevertheless, Mariano Rajoy declared the readiness to the dialogue with the Catalan leaders, if they act within the legal boundaries. The scope of such a dialogue is wide enough: on the agenda are the issue of constitutional reform and further federalization of the "state of autonomies", the new special status of Catalonia in the renewed "state of autonomies", possible financial autonomy of the region that the Basque Country and Navarre possess in Spain. But can the central government in its current composition make an agreement with new (and in fact, "old") authorities of Catalonia, even if nomination of Carles Puigdemont for the head of the Generalidad de Cataluña does not happen? This is a question.

Formation of the new government of Catalonia

The political victory of the party "Citizens–Party of the Citizenry" (Cuidadanos), which stands on the positions of social-liberalism and post-nationalism and advocates the consistent formation of solidarity and civil identity in the "state of autonomies", did not become an electoral victory. It happened because of the peculiarities of the electoral legislation of the country. The party-political system in Catalonia traditionally was fragmented; the political forces that have passed into the regional parliament often have to conduct long and difficult negotiations in order to form a stable coalition government.

The formation of a new autonomous government will be a challenge. Formally, the supporters of independence have a majority. However, seven deputies will not be able to vote on the candidacy of the prime minister, because they are either on the run and are waiting for an arrest warrant in Spain, or they have already been arrested. It will take, at least, a longer and more complicated voting procedure, or all seven will give their seats in party lists to other people and will not be able to occupy positions in the Generalidad.

Undoubtedly, Carles Puigdemont would like to take the chairmanship of the autonomous government (Generalidad ). After all, the electoral coalition "Together for Catalonia" (Junts per Catalunya) led by him received the greatest support from the independence backers (34 seats, 940,602 votes, or 21.65 % of voters). However, despite the decision of the Supreme Court of Spain to withdraw the international arrest warrant for the extradition of the former head of the Catalan administration and his four advisers (ministers) to Spain, the arrest warrant in Spain is still valid, which means that he and his associates can be arrested when they cross the Spanish border. Second, Puigdemont's relations with the two other political forces of the separatists which entered the autonomous parliament are not so cloudless. Glee over the election results hides disagreements and mistrust that triggered Puigdemont's escape to Belgium. Finally, it seems that the majority of Catalan separatists does not want to repeat immediately what happened in autumn, and the figure of Puigdemont as the head of the executive body may prevent them to act more cautiously and deliberately.

Possible resignation of the Rajoy government

Possible resignation of the Rajoy government and the early general parliamentary elections are possible. The reason for this may be, for example, the discussion of the draft state budget in the national parliament and the attempt of left opposition to initiate a no-confidence vote against the acting cabinet. In this case the results of the elections are unpredictable.

As to the split in the Spanish society and in Catalonia itself in connection with the Catalan crisis, this is a very serious problem. The solution is a truly strategic task facing the country. The main role here should be played by national political elites: after all, they have at their disposal the main instruments to regulate interethnic and inter-territorial relations in the country and, first of all, the identity policy aimed at the formation of a civil nation to prevent the revival of the long-standing conflict between the "two Spains" in the new historical conditions.

Reaction of the European Union

Despite the aspirations of the Catalonia independence supporters to internationalize the conflict between the center and the autonomous community, the European Union always considered this conflict an internal matter of Spain. The EU authorities repeatedly said that, in case of independence, Catalonia will have to end up in the queue of candidates for EU membership, meet all the necessary criteria for future membership and, most importantly, overcome the veto of Spain, which will always oppose the entry of independent Catalonia into the European institutions. The results of the elections to the autonomous parliament of Catalonia will not change the position of the European Union and the national political elites of the member states. As for the possible increase of followers of Catalan separatists in other EU countries, this is likely to happen, given the fact that separatist-minded political forces in the EU are actively interacting and supporting each other in every possible way.

Irina Prokhorenko is Doctor of Political Sciences, head of the sector of international organizations and global political regulation, IMEMO RAS, Professor of the Faculty of World Politics of the Moscow State University

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.