In what's been quite a quiet week in Catalan politics, Catalonia Calling #18 deals with the setting up of the parliamentary commission for the Constituent Process and the spoof phonecall Mariano Rajoy from a radio presenter pretending to be Carles Puigdemont.
In many ways, the jockeying for position between parties trying to form a government in Madrid has been more interesting. As the Spanish government is Catalonia's interlocutor, who is in power is incredibly important for the independence process. A change would mean dealing with someone more amenable and the option of constitutional changes or a referendum, although difficult, are definitely back on the table, especially if Podemos or the Catalan parties, Esquerra Republicana and Democràcia i Llibertat (Convergència) have anything to say on the matter.
The main news in Catalonia this week has been the setting up of the parliamentary commissions. I think there are 29 in total, which look into a variety of different issues that will be dealt with during the legislature. However, the most important one from the point of view of Catalan independence is the Commission of the Constituent Process.
It was finally decided to make it an investigative commission rather than a legislative one because this means it doesn't only have the support of pro-independence Junts pel Sí and the CUP but also of the 11 deputies of Podemos franchise, Catalunya Sí que es Pot, who are in favour of a referendum but don't fully support independence.
The commission has four main areas
Partly to include Catalunya Sí que es Pot points of possible conflict, such as the Law of Transitory Legality, have been excluded from the commission's remit. The reason for this and the commission being investigative rather than legislative was to avoid it being taken before the Spanish Constitutional Court.
However, on Friday, government spokespèrson Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria announced that they would be lodging appeal against both the Commission of the Constituent Process and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If you remember last week, I predicted that the Spanish government would consider a Catalan Foreign Ministry unconstitutional because a Catalan government dealing independently with foreign governments would be acting like a sovereign state and so invade the competences of the Spanish government.
In the Spanish Congress the week has been spent organising the parliamentary groups, Podemos wanted four; one four the main party and one for each of its associated candidacies in Galicia, Valencia and Catalonia. However, it only got two; one for the main party and one for the regional groups as a whole.
This led to serious discrepancies with the Valencian members of Compromís and here in Catalonia, the argument was that if En Comú Podem couldn't get a parliamentary group of its own, there is obviously very little chance of Podemos persuading the other parties to give Catalonia a referendum on independence.
The other big news of the week came on Thursday, when a Barcelona radio station managed to get through by phone to Mariano Rajoy by pretending that they were Carles Puigdemont. Apparently, they'd called Puigdemont earlier pretending to be Rajoy but his personal assistant wasn't taken in and the call didn't get through so it doesn't say much about the screening process at Moncloa when anyone can find the phone number on Google and actually speak to the Spanish president.
What was quite interesting was Rajoy's friendly tone. He reminded the false Puigdemont that they had met before when Rajoy had been in Girona to open the high-speed AVE railway line.
What was also interesting was that he said that his diary was quite empty and that he would call on Monday to arrange a meeting. He was obviously keen to talk so everybody wondered here, why he hadn't followed normal protocol and called Puigdemont last week to congratulate him on becoming president of the Generalitat, which would have opened dialogue channels from day one.
The other interesting point was that he said that his diary was empty in the week when the King Felipe is meeting all the political leaders in order to find out what possibilities there are of investing a new president of Spain in the near future. One would have thought that as incumbent president and leader of the most voted party, which hasn't got enough seats to form a government on its own, he would be in permanent contact with other political leaders trying to come to an agreement.
Just to remind you, there are 350 seats in the Spanish Congress, so an absolute majority is 176.
The Partido Popular won 123 and Ciudadanos, their most natural ally, only won 40, which only comes to 163, still short of a majority. The other possibility is a great pact between the 12 seats of Partido Popular and the 90 seats of PSOE, which would offer stable government. Last week I thought this was the most likely outcome but PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez has repeatedly said No.
On Friday, the King said he was prepared to propose Rajoy as president in order to hold an investiture debate next week but, as Partido Popular have alienated all other parties apart from Ciudadanos, nobody else is prepared to vote for Rajoy or even abstain so it's very unlikely that Rajoy would be invested president. For that reason, he turned the offer down.
The King has said that he will begin another round of meetings with political leaders next week and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias immediately got into the driving seat and said that he was prepared to form a coalition with PSOE a be vice president of Spain. The 69 Podemos seats added to the 90 seats of PSOE make a total of 159, which still isn't enough but other pacts are possible.
The 10 Izquierda Unida MPs and the Basques of Partido Nacionalista Vasco and EH Bildu are apparently willing to vote in favour of Pedro Sánchez as president, which takes the total to 169, just 7 votes short of an absolute majority. This means one of the Catalan parties has to be persuaded to abstain. Obviously, they'd only be willing to do this in return for a Catalan referendum being included in the programme or some concessions on finance.
Pedro Sánchez is in a quandary. If there's no government, it's likely that PSOE would lose the left to Podemos. If he pacts with Partido Popular, PSOE stop being the opposition and in the long run they'll lose ground to Podemos. A left-wing coalition looks the best option but most of the PSOE regional leaders are against making any concessions to Catalan independence.
Meanwhile, despite the Constitutional Court's attempts to block everything, the Catalan government and Parliament will use the power vacuum to move forward with its own projects.
It looks like we've got an interesting week ahead. Please remember that I publish programme notes with a full text of the episode and links to extra info and don't forget to subscribe, like, share and comment.
See you next week. Visca el Barça, Visca Catalunya! Look after yourselves.