VilaWeb: MEP Carolina Punset leaves Ciudadanos criticising the party’s shift to the right and position on Catalonia

This is a translation of an article from Catalan newspaper VilaWeb entitled “L’eurodiputada Carolina Punset abandona Ciutadans criticant la dretanització del partit i la posició sobre Catalunya“. VilaWeb publishes some of their own articles in English here.

The MEP and former Ciudadanos (Citizens) organiser at the Corts Valencianes (the Valencian regional parliament), Carolina Punset has announced to the leadership that she is leaving the party. She did so in a strong letter, published by Spanish newspaper eldiario.es, in which she criticises the party’s turn to the right on economic and social questions, position towards Catalonia and change in energy policies.

Punset criticises that the party maintains a single political policy for a short period of time, which has made them forget ‘where they came from and where they are going’. ‘We have gone from holding mild policies against nationalism in order to look to secure the moderate catalanist vote to being “the most Spanish” of all,’ she says. According to Punset, from the beginning she defended ‘the idea of citizenship and civil patriotism across the territories’, which has been lost. ‘Walking with flags goes against the DNA of the Ciudadanos which I joined’, she laments.

‘I do not believe that anyone doubts my aversion to any form of nationalism or my Jacobinism, which I have unashamedly defended. However, that does not stop me from affirming that the situation of civil confrontation has reached the point where it is necessary to be open to listening to political opponents’, she says. Specifically Punset criticises the imprisonment of politicians and pro-independence civil society leaders: ‘Prison can never be good news.’

The MEP denounces that anyone who differs from Albert Rivera’s position is marked and spied upon, ‘as KGB agents did’. ‘They tell you off because you have spoken with Puigdemont, with people from ERC (the Republican Left of Catalonia), with anyone who is not from the 155 block. It’s a pity.’

Furthermore, she says that, as a feminist, she feels ashamed when they talk of ‘gender ideology’ or when ‘they consider acts which are really sexist terrorism as family violence’. She also criticises that they deny the need for electoral lists with parity of representation, ‘even though where they are not imposed there are not enough women represented’.

She adds that her guts churn when they suggest ‘regulation’ of prostitution, which she believes is a euphemism for legalisation, and legalising surrogate mothers. ‘Bearing in mind the cases of “women farms”, we must be more careful’, she believes.

She says that if it has taken her so long to leave the party, it is because she sees it as an injustice that it is her who has to leave ‘when it is the leadership which has made the political defection to be the white brand of the Partido Popular’. Punset will continue to be an MEP, now as an independent member of the liberal group.

Ciudadanos versus freedom of expression: the story of #RiveraQuitameEste

On Wednesday, the leader of the centre-right Ciudadanos party took to Barcelona to remove yellow ribbons from the streets. The social media response became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. This is why.

Ciudadanos (in English, Citizens, or simply Cs) is a party which presents itself as the party of the Spanish political centre, a more progressive alternative to the established Partido Popular (Popular Party, PP). In Europe, it sits in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group with the UK’s Liberal Democrats and, ironically, their ideological opposites in Catalonia, the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català, (Catalan European Democratic Party, PDeCAT).

It’s liberal credentials have been questioned, however, by analysis of the party’s policies. Originally designating itself as a centre-left party and, more recently, centrist, analysts have variously described Cs as a centre-right or even right-wing party. For the purposes of this article, I will, where necessary, use the term “centre-right”, whilst acknowledging that a precise location on the political spectrum is a matter for intense debate.

Cs was born in Catalonia in 2006, originally in response to Catalan nationalism, among other social issues, but soon became a significant force in Spanish politics. They currently have 32 of the 350 seats in the national parliament, the Congress of Deputies, after winning 13.1% of votes in 2016, and sought to use their influence in a failed attempt to oppose the confidence vote against Mariano Rajoy and his PP government in June.

Whilst they are the fourth largest party nationally, in the elections to the Catalan Parliament in December they topped the poll, winning 36 of the 135 seats and 25.4% of the popular vote. However, they still sit as an opposition party against the votes of the Catalan nationalist groups Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia, JuntsxCat), Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia, ERC) and Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (Popular Unity Candidacy, CUP), with a combined total of 70 seats – an overall majority – and 47.6% of the popular vote. The perception of winning an election but remaining in opposition clearly irritates Cs’ leader in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas, who believes she should be the region’s president instead of Quim Torra, the compromise candidate from the JuntsxCat parliamentary group.

Torra’s election did not come easy. In fact, he was the fourth choice for president. The first was Carles Puigdemont, the leader of PDeCAT and incumbent president, until he was deposed by the Spanish government when they invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, sacking the Catalan Government and calling fresh elections. That, in turn, was in response to the Catalan Government’s decision to press ahead with a referendum on independence on 1 October 2017, which the Spanish Government and Constitutional Court ruled was illegal, and subsequent declaration of independence following a 92% vote in favour of secession (on a 43% turnout). Puigdemont’s decision to seek exile in Belgium rather than face (as he and many Catalans see it) a political prosecution caused complications and his bid was halted in favour of building a workable government in Barcelona. To many Catalans, though, he remains the legitimate president. Continue reading