With the Spanish Supreme Court expected to deliver the verdicts in the Catalan Trial in late September or early October, the current Catalan coalition government is already planning its response.
It is clear that guilty verdicts could lead to yet another clash between the Catalan and Spanish administrations. Quim Torra, head of the government in Barcelona, has already indicated that this will be the case, although he might face an internal dispute.
The Catalan Parliament speaker Roger Torrent has called for a ‘national unity government’ in Catalonia of pro-independence and republican parties if Catalan leaders are found guilty in the upcoming verdict. Meanwhile Quim Torra has suggested that Torrent should instead prepare Parliament to reinstate exiled leader Carles Puigdemont as president.
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Torrent has urged Torra to consider the option of a broad-party executive with parties representing ‘the 80% of Catalans that are against repression and want a democratic solution’ to the political conflict.
Currently, the Catalan government is a coalition between pro-independence parties Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) – led by Torra and exiled Puigdemont – and the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party, the party of jailed leader Oriol Junqueras, the speaker Torrent and Catalan vice-president Pere Aragonès.
According to Torrent, a new concentration government should also include the far-left pro-independence CUP party and Catalunya-En Comú, the left-wing party of Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, which integrates members both in favour and against independence and supports a referendum. If that option was not possible, the speaker also suggests calling a new Catalan election.
But for president Torra, the answer to a potential guilty verdict in the Catalan trial should be another one: reinstating Carles Puigdemont, currently exiled in Belgium, as president. Puigdemont won a seat in the Catalan Parliament in the 2017 election, called during Spain’s direct rule. However, he was not able to retake his post as president and Torra was elected instead after months of stalemate.
Sources close to Torra said that Torrent should make preparations to allow Parliament to reinstate Puigdemont as president. On 30 January 2018, Torrent suspended a plenary to re-elect the exiled leader amid doubts over the legality of the move.
Torrent’s comments about a ‘national-unity government’ came only hours after an ERC minister suggested Torra should accept a motion of confidence if the Catalan executive fails to pass the 2020 budget.
New Spanish elections on 10 November?
In the meantime, it is still to be seen whether acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez can gather enough support to be officially reinstated in his role by the deadline of 23 September, or whether Spain will have to hold yet another general election on 10 November.
Left-wing Podemos party, and its Catalan ally En Comú Podem, are an essential part of this support, as well as at least one pro-independence party: ERC or Junts per Catalunya.
The Catalan crisis has been one of the contentious issues between the Socialists (PSOE) and Podemos, and the pro-independence forces aren’t likely to support Sánchez immediately after a potential guilty verdict in the Supreme Court is out.