Five months after the atypical elections of 21 December, held in the midst of thoroughly abnormal circumstances, with political prisoners, politicians in exile and many high-ranking officials and members of the public under investigation, and with the Catalan government sacked, the Catalan Parliament finally took the important step of regaining control of its institutions. Quim Torra i Pla, elected by the pro-independence majority, with JxCat and ERC voting in favour and the CUP abstaining, is to be the new president of Catalonia.
Firstly, we must welcome the upcoming end of the application of Article 155 [direct rule] and, therefore, of a Catalan government that has been under Madrid’s control all this time. Secondly, we must celebrate the newly-elected president’s repeated offers of dialogue, addressed to both Spain and Europe, and also to the opposition: although they have yet to take him up on the offer. It is right that he should insist, since only through dialogue will we one day manage to find our way out of this dead end in which we find ourselves, largely due to Spain’s inability to respond politically, but also thanks to the miscalculations of the pro-independence bloc, as Torra himself admitted yesterday. We must still take him at his word in his insistence on republicanism, which can be seen as a Catalonia based on citizens with a fraternal equality of rights and freedoms. And finally, in keeping with this last point, we must appreciate Torra’s apologies and self-criticism in regard to his previously held positions expressed on social media and in print, which could lead one to interpret his understanding of Catalonia as exclusive. In fact, in the speeches Torra made during the investiture debate, faced with accusations of xenophobia, he repeatedly stated that he considers anyone who lives and works in Catalonia to be Catalan, that he wishes to govern for all 7.5 million of the country’s citizens and that he does not see independence as a question of identity, but, on the contrary, about being a republic, in other words, as being down to rights and freedoms, and democracy.
In reality, Torra was bound to have said such a thing and he will have to govern with this in mind, while remaining under close scrutiny. If a desire for independence has become the majority political option, it is because it has long since abandoned nationalism based on identity, a move which has given it strength and meaning, and has taken up the challenge of creating a new state in a democratic and civic quest. If it is to become a reality one day, the Republic will have to be inclusive and pluralistic in terms of cultures, origins and languages, and ideologically all-encompassing.
Therefore, President Torra, in addition to the challenge of undoing Article 155 and reactivating public policies, of being assured of a difficult term —the CUP do not seem very willing, and the Comuns even less so—, of performing a juggling act with those in exile while keeping up the fight against judicial persecution and in support of those who are in prison, he must also be especially careful when it comes to proving that he is everyone’s president and that he values the country’s diversity, which is its true identity. What is also at stake here is the viability of the Republic, the idea of a new country.