Recovering self-government and starting a fresh chapter

Catalan president Quim Torra signed a new decree on Tuesday appointing his cabinet ministers. Excluded from this new list were the names vetoed by the Spanish government which —thanks to the powers granted by direct rule— decided that prisoners and exiles could not be part of Torra’s administration and refused make them official by blocking the publication of their appointments in Catalonia’s official Gazette.

With the addition of Alba Vergés in the Health Ministry, Laura Borràs in Culture, Damià Calvet in Territory, and Àngels Chacón in Business, and the shift of Elsa Artadi to the Department of the Presidency, Torra overcame all the legal obstacles to forming a government, and forced the lifting of direct rule and the abusive intervention of Catalan self-government via Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. It is a necessary step and a show of responsibility by the president, who had already exposed the Spanish government and now will be able to continue the legal battle in court while the new Catalan administration takes over and sets in gear new governmental actions after five months of paralysis and usurpation.

The recovery of self-government is a widely shared desire in Catalan society, which had been living under the sine die continuation of Article 155, a situation that threatened basic pillars of our nation such, as the school system, the police force, and public media outlets. Now will be the moment to take stock of the disaster and to rebuild the damaged structures. But, above all, it will be the moment to put the focus back on self-government, to show in a practical sense that it is very different to be governed from Madrid than from Barcelona. From this point of view, this government must also be exceptional in its technical and political abilities, because it will have to face an enormous challenge. The classic saying of socialist leader Rafael Campalans, "politics is pedagogy", will take on a special meaning under these circumstances. The presence of six women cabinet members out of 14, after the mere three initially named, is good news in light of this.

The formation of an effective government comes just hours before a debate on a no-confidence vote begins in Madrid to bring down the government of Mariano Rajoy, a vote that could make socialist Pedro Sánchez the next Spanish PM. If this change becomes reality, a new political climate will be a possibility. President Torra ably played the calendar in the face of this possibility: if Sánchez is president, he will have no excuse not to receive the Catalan leader in the Moncloa and start a fresh chapter. Once again, it is necessary to prove to the world that the rejection of dialogue does not come from the Catalan side of the conflict. The ball will now be in Spain's court.

Finally, the time has come for Catalan politics to adapt to reality, occupy all possible seats of power, and take advantage of the opportunities offered by both the Spanish legal train wreck in Europe and the new scenario that could open up within Spain. Politics requires an awareness of one's own strengths as well as the weaknesses of one’s opponent. And overestimating one thing or underestimating the other are usually a mistake.

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