Without ERC, the coalition government would never have survived. And with ERC, the coalition government has seen itself on the brink of the abyss several times. The support of the Catalan Republicans has been essential in the two votes that have allowed the Executive of Pedro Sánchez to continue alive, those of the last two State Budgets. But in the other most relevant milestones of the legislature, the Government has not had Esquerra by its side. It happened last Thursday with the labor reform, and before with the European funds or with the alarm states, three crucial issues in which ERC left Sánchez alone and forced him to seek agreements with Ciudadanos and even to strengthen relations with EH Bildu, an interlocutor whom the socialists tried to avoid.
No observer of current politics would hesitate to place ERC in the camp of the Government’s allies and Ciudadanos in the opposition camp. Summarized like this, everything seems very clear, if it weren’t for the fact that a look at what happened in Congress during the two years of the legislature shows a much more complex picture. In the legislative initiatives debated in Parliament, the coalition government has obtained the support of its theoretical pro-independence ally as many times (59) as of its theoretical liberal opponent. Without Esquerra there would be no Budgets and the Executive would have fallen. And without Ciudadanos, Sánchez would not have been able to carry out the labor reform or some of the extensions of the state of alarm.
Pablo Iglesias was the first to start talking about the “investiture bloc” and the expression has ended up being accepted by everyone, leaving aside the fact that such a bloc has been a slippery amalgam from the beginning. At this point it has already been forgotten that Sánchez was invested on January 7, 2020 without an absolute majority, by only two votes difference —167 to 165— and with ERC and EH Bildu who did not go beyond abstention. An advance, in any case, on what both had done a year before, when, together with the right, they knocked down the Budgets of the PSOE Government resulting from the motion of censure and forced the calling of elections.
Still in its first babble, the newly formed Coalition Executive was hit by the unthinkable, the pandemic. It wasn’t just his first big challenge, it was a challenge that no one had ever seen before. ERC was not very helpful. The Republicans did not support any of the first five extensions of the state of alarm, almost always with the argument that powers were being taken away from the Generalitat. Esquerra and the rest of the independentistas were the only ones who did not support the first of these extensions, in the face of the attitude of all the other political formations, including Vox, which also voted in favor of the agreement, although it would later challenge it —successfully— for being unconstitutional. .
The Government weathered the successive votes because the PP continued to reluctantly support and ERC did not go beyond abstention. Until May, when the fourth extension had to be voted on and the popular ones withdrew their support while the Republicans went to no. The Executive found itself with water up to its neck, to the point that it broke the EH Bildu taboo to start his abstention with a pact —later rectified— that was a scandalous stone and that the abertzales They have evoked these days to launch as a reproach: PSOE and United We Can signed a document with them that committed them to the “full repeal” of the PP’s labor reform.
During those weeks, the support of Ciudadanos, together with that of the PNV, the most reliable senior partner until last Thursday’s vote, supported the Government. When September arrived, the Socialists even considered agreeing on the Budgets with the party of Inés Arrimadas. At that moment, ERC really entered the “investiture bloc”. First, it supported the latest state of alarm and finally gave the Government life insurance, backing its accounts at the end of the year.
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Just a month later, the Executive again suffered a hot flash in Parliament. And not just for a minor reason. The decree that established the management system of the multimillion-dollar European fund was in danger of being defeated until minutes before the vote. ERC was ranked no and this time also Ciudadanos. The Government was saved with an unlikely carambola, the abstention of Vox and the support of EH Bildu, who, apart from the previous precautions, had become one of the most frequented interlocutors by the Socialists.
The relationship was recomposed in the following months, especially with the pardons of the leaders of the process and the creation of the dialogue table with Catalonia. The negotiation of the new Budgets had its thorny phases, but it ratified the already installed idea of the “investiture bloc”. The labor reform has cracked it again. The wounds this time do not affect Esquerra’s relationship with the socialists so much, but rather with United We Can and particularly with Yolanda Díaz, its highest representative in the Government. Díaz and Gabriel Rufián have gone from taking selfies together to hardly even looking at each other during last Thursday’s stormy parliamentary debate. The ERC spokesman tried to calm down by saying that, despite his rejection of the reform, “the world is not ending.” Only that world has often resembled a roller coaster.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.