Thursday, 8 December 2011

Debate or consensus when PSC elect their new leader?

Evil tongues say that the enormous losses which the Catalan socialists PSC saw in the recent elections to the Spanish parliament were predictable. The party did badly in last year’s elections to the Catalan parliament but did not react. Then in the May municipal elections, more surprisingly, they saw CiU taking over power in many places – most notably in Barcelona –, but still did not react. With this perspective, November 20 was only the latest and most embarrassing part of this disastrous trend and the question is what will happen next. In the warm-up ahead of the coming congress, December 16-18, everybody agrees that there is a need for a profound remodeling of how the party operates and its politics, the problem is to determine in which direction to go. That is, of course, especially difficult in a movement which prides itself to unite various spirits (ànimes in Catalan, almas in Spanish).

Which these spirits are can, according to senior PSC member Raimon Obiols, be exemplified by three of the people aspiring to lead the party: The most well-known of them is Miquel Iceta, spokesman of PSC in the Catalan parliament. With a background in the municipal council of Cornellà de Llobregat he is the candidate which best represents the socialists of Barcelona’s “red” suburbs (el cinturó vermell), above all the populous comarca Baix Llobregat. Here the majority of the inhabitants first and foremost feel Spanish, and only after that (if at all) identify themselves as Catalans. The opposite can be said about the two others: Àngel Ros is, in his position as Mayor of Lleida, firmly rooted in a Catalonia which does not accept being just another part of Spain but the same catalanista spirit can be found with Joan Ignasi Elena, former Mayor of our town, Vilanova i la Geltrú. The big difference between the two is that Ros wants to focus on challenging CiU by giving PSC a solidly Catalan identity combined with a general left-wing program, while Elena has set his eye on the Catalan left – ICV-EUiA and ERC – which he wants to attract over by turning PSC into an open, but more radically socialist platform.

Having said this, a forth candidate - Pere Navarro, Mayor of Terrassa, - is considered to be best connected in the current PSC leadership. And while he might not embody any of the PSC spirits in their purest form, he certainly represents a big part of Catalan reality; Terrassa belongs to the province of Barcelona without being a part of the metropolitan area, it has strong Catalan traditions but has changed due to a major influx of Spanish speakers - not the least during the Franco era – but, above all, it is a typical former industrial town struggling to find its place in the modern economy.

Interestingly, all candidates have expressed their desire for a fruitful debate, but at the same time most of them want to see themselves as the leading personality of a united candidacy. The excitement decreases further since it seems clear that Pere Navarro will win in the end –he has the support of PSC Barcelona and estimations indicate that 70% of the delegates hold him as their favourite.

Iceta can be expected to be the first to throw in the towel and join him – the formal excuse could be that Iceta realizes that he is not perceived as a new face (How could he ever be for anyone who has watched the news on TV3 during the last few years?), while I assume that the real reason can be found in an existing (but changeable…) party rule which says that any non-elected candidate is barred from subsequently joining the core team of the winner.

But where does this leave Ros and Elena? Well, as I understand it, the case of Ros is that he will use the congress to build his profile within the party with a view to the primary elections for President de la Generalitat, to be celebrated at a later stage. Elena, on the other hand, is somehow expected to fight until the end, well aware of the consequences, and then accept the role as a left wing conscience within the organization.

In the end, I cannot help wondering if we will see an intense debate on this congress, since all delegates on beforehand know that one candidate has the right answers on hand, and that these answers are, more or less, a continuation of the ideas defended by the outgoing leadership. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe there is still a lot to discover. Maybe PSC will again be a force to count on not only in Catalan but also in Spanish politics.

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By the way, the youth organization Joventut Socialista de Catalunya has sent out an open letter to all the delegates of congress, reminding them that a PSC only represented by leaders who started their political careers during Spain’s transition to democracy, will only attract voters who remember that era. On top of this they want a party with a strong socialist and catalanista identity. I interpret this as support for Joan Ignasi Elena, without mentioning his name, but maybe I am just being Vilanova-chauvinistic! ;)

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And a few links:
CAT, SPA - PSC’s web page
SPA - ElPeriódico: Ramón de España – Por qué dejé de votar (al PSC)
SPA - ElPeriódico: Joan Tapia- La batalla de Nicaragua
SPA - LaVanguardia: El PSC se plantea votar por separado al líder y la ejecutiva
CAT - Ara: Sara González - Navarro ja té prou suport per ser el nou líder del PSC
CAT - Ara: David Miró - La decantació terrassenca
CAT - Ara: Àngel Ros es presentarà a unes primàries del PSC per ser candidat a la Generalitat encara que no sigui primer secretari
CAT - Ara: Les joventuts del PSC demanen primàries obertes i reforçar l'agenda catalanista

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