Catalan government shake-up in readiness for Oct 1 vote
President Puigdemont reshuffles cabinet with Presidency, Home Affairs and Education ministers ‘stepping aside’ in what Spanish President Rajoy calls a ‘purge’
Catalonia will go into the referendum set for October 1 with a new-look government. President Carles Puigdemont reshuffled his cabinet on Friday, with ministers Neus Munté (Presidency), Jordi Jané (Home Affairs) and Meritxell Ruiz (Education), as well as Joan Vidal Ciurana (Executive Secretary), all moving on. Presenting his new cabinet to the press, Puigdemont denied the ministers had been replaced over “doubts about what the people of Catalonia should do” but rather that “they have decided to step aside”.
Officially taking up their new posts on Friday evening, the leader of the pro-independence coalition Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) in the Catalan Parliament, Jordi Turull, is the new Minister of the Presidency, with Barcelona city councilor, Joaquim Forn, promoted to Minister of Home Affairs. Meanwhile, university professor, Clara Ponsatí, is the new Minister of Education. All three ministers were sworn on Friday evening, along with Víctor Cullell as Executive Secretary.
What was initially planned as a reorganization of the internal functions in the Catalan government in preparation for the October 1 referendum turned into a deeper reform affecting the three PDeCat party ministers. This means that four ministers have now been replaced, after Minister of Business and Knowledge Jordi Batet was replaced last week following doubts he expressed in public about the viability of the planned referendum.
Apart from the reshuffle, Puigdemont announced the creation of a “coordination body” for the referendum that will be made up of Puigdemont, Vice President Oriol Junqueras, Secretary General of the Vice Presidency Josep María Jové. along with new Executive Secretary Cullell. Nevertheless, Puigdemont insisted that all decisions on the referendum would be taken and signed jointly by all members of the government.
With four PDECat members moved on and no ERC members, the immediate reading of the reshuffle was that Puigdemont was rewarding Junqueras for taking charge of the referendum, something the president was keen to deny: “This government is not PDECat nor ERC, it is Junts pel Sí, a coalition created before the election and that presented a joint programme,” he said.
‘Triumph of radicalism’
Yet, that was not how Spanish President Mariano Rajoy saw the reshuffle, as he accused the Catalan president of going against the interests of Catalans and Catalonia: “Today the doubters have been purged, with radicalism triumphing,” he claimed, adding that the reshuffle was “another sign of the authoritarian leanings that are breaking Catalonia, the laws and the rules we have built together.”
Meanwhile, opposition leader, Pedro Sánchez, who was in Barcelona on Friday for an event of the PSC Catalan socialist party, urged the Spanish executive to make a move and engage the Catalan pro-independence coalition. He was quickly answered by the spokesman for the central government, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, who claimed that his government has been proposing dialogue for “a very long time” and said president Puigdemont had already responded to Sánchez’s proposals with the reshuffle, which shows he is not thinking about “constitutional reform or national aspirations.” Sánchez, said Méndez de Vigo, "has not taken the political times into consideration."