Clara Ponsatí: “We want to be the backbone of the independence process.”

  • Interview with Clara Ponsatí, who this week announced that for Sant Jordi she will present a political platform named "Alhora," together with Jordi Graupera.

Txell Partal
10.03.2024 - 21:24

This week, Clara Ponsatí has announced that she will present a political proposal for Catalonia, which will be called Alhora, along with the philosopher Jordi Graupera. “National liberation is not a chimera of dreamers. Independence is possible. Good governance is possible. We need to clean up and get out of the impasse with ideas, courage, and solvency,” Ponsatí and Graupera said to explain their project. But what exactly is Alhora? For now, very little is known about it because it won’t be until Saint George’s Day when they will explain their proposal for the country. What is known is that the initiative has aroused a lot of curiosity, and within a few days, they have sold out the seats at the Teatre Borràs where they will hold the presentation event, and they have already opened a second session for people to hear their proposal.

To try to find out more, we interviewed MEP Clara Ponsatí at VilaWeb, who has explained some news to us. For example, the intention of this political space is to run in the upcoming elections to the Parliament of Catalonia next year. Ponsatí does not rule out running on this list, although she confesses that her intention is to find a strong enough team so that her role is less prominent. “We hope that there are many people who have never been involved in politics who may dare to take the step. We are looking for people with enough expertise, who do other things in the country, who have interesting lives in dimensions other than politics.”

—Finally, you have decided to take the step of creating a political space. Why now?
—We had to mature the decision. And now it seemed that we could announce it. We have been talking about it and thinking about it for quite some time, and looking to see what resources we had to start with. We made the decision a few weeks ago. I can’t give you much information about it because, as we have announced that we will make our proposal public on Sant Jordi’s Day, it is not appropriate to reveal it now.

—Let’s try. You talk about a political space, but is the intention to run in the parliamentary elections?
—In principle, yes. It’s just that we will make a proposal, a proposal from a relatively small group of people, for now, that we have to see to what extent it can grow and have enough strength so that, indeed, running in the elections is an option we can consider seriously. And we don’t know that yet.

—So, is the intention to create a political party?
—Administratively, it’s a tool that will be necessary, yes.

—And how will it be? A political party like Solidaritat per la Independència was at the time, which pushed the other parties towards independence? Or do you aspire to have a broad enough majority to lead the independence movement?
—We should never be short on aspirations. We want to be the backbone of the independence movement. Whether we can achieve that or not, we’ll see. If people don’t give us enough support or resources, then maybe we can do less. Or maybe we can’t even play a role like Solidaritat did at the time, which I think deserves a lot of respect. Clearly, they were a catalyst and had an undeniable political influence. So, between influencing the discourse and changing the terms of the debate a bit, which could be the least we can do, and truly becoming the axis around which political independence revolves in the future, there is a very wide range of options, and we cannot predict which one will materialize.

I ask you this because you have been very critical of the current pro-independence parties. If this new party enters parliament, you will probably have to negotiate with them.
—It’s possible, of course. We still have to see to what extent it will be me or someone else, that’s also completely open, and no decision has been made about it. Nor do I think it should be decided in the short term. But it is clear that if Alhora participates in the elections and enters parliament, it may find itself in situations where it will have to negotiate. Being critical doesn’t prevent you from sitting down and talking about things. In fact, being critical is the starting point. In fact, I’ve been publicly critical for some time now, and the message I received was: you criticize a lot, but what do you propose? Now is the time to make proposals.

—What proposals?
—I can’t go into the discourse that needs to be made in a month and a half from now. But I do believe that the proposals go in the direction of the political parties that proclaim themselves independentists and have a majority in parliament not doing what they announced they would do. Even though their announcements were ambiguous, within that ambiguity, they positioned themselves as protagonists to take decisive steps towards independence. And that hasn’t happened. And not only that, but these same political parties have become a burden for the PSOE, the Spanish government, and that doesn’t move us forward. And at the same time that they have abandoned the fight for independence, the country has been abandoned. There is a list of national crises that no one is addressing, from the drought to the education crisis or with the Catalan language, the difficulty we have in getting public services offered in Catalan and allowing Catalans to live in Catalan in Catalonia. Well, this is just a very short list, but there has been absolute neglect. We believe that only to the extent that they do this, will we move towards independence, and only to the extent that we move towards independence will they do this. Therefore, our proposal, and that’s why we have chosen the name Alhora (At the same time), is that we must advance on the day-to-day front, and advancing on the day-to-day front means not avoiding the conflict we have with Spain. To the extent that we do not avoid the conflict we have with Spain, we take steps to regain the path towards independence, which is clearly quite derailed.

—So, this party will not only focus on independence but will also want to delve into important country issues?
—What do you mean by delving into issues deeply? Obviously, there will be proposals to recover the language or education, to address the Catalanization of migration… We care about the country, and we are convinced that the country will only progress if it is independent, but we are also convinced that the way to progress towards independence is by confronting all these problems decisively and combatively.

—You have mentioned that you are a small group of promoters…
—For now, yes. We need many more people to commit and support us if the proposal we make seems interesting and exciting to them. Privately, there are many people who encourage us, but there comes a time when you have to take the step publicly. For now, we have announced it with two names, which are Jordi Graupera and me. But on Sant Jordi’s Day, there will be more people on stage. If this is to move forward, many more people will have to commit to it, at different levels. It requires a significant number of people.

—In recent months, it has been said that both you and the Assemblea Nacional Llista Cívica have had trouble finding people to step forward.
—The truth is that we haven’t started looking for candidates yet. We haven’t even considered it. First, we need to take other steps. We don’t know if there will be enough people to step forward. There is a significant fear of social stigma. The witch hunt that has been waged since October 2017 has been tremendous. This has not only prevented us from taking steps towards independence, but it has also generated social damage that is not easy to repair. People have lost their jobs, lost their peace of mind, and been harassed in a thousand ways. So, it is clear that this social stigma exists, and people are afraid. But we are hopeful that there will be people who will dare to take the step. We will also encourage and try to give guarantees and support to all those who need it. I am convinced that there are many people who would love to do something for the country and who have a lot to contribute to this project. We have to create the conditions for them to dare to take the step. It is true that for a long time, taking steps for the country has meant risking your own integrity, and this is a very high price to pay. But if we want the country to move forward, someone has to take the step. We are hopeful that there will be many people who dare to do so.

—But, in these months that you’ve talked about it privately, have you found that people encourage you but don’t want to enter politics?
—People who have a name and professional or cultural respectability, for them, the most important thing is their reputation. And risking it in a political project is a complicated game. I understand that it’s difficult. We’ll see. Also, we’re not only looking for well-known people. We believe that there are people who are not well-known but who are intellectually very strong. There are patriots. There are people from the country prepared to start a different kind of politics. But, well, it’s a gamble that doesn’t guarantee success.

—Until now, you’ve always ruled out leading the project, but it seems that now you don’t rule it out completely…
—Personally? Yes. I would prefer not to have to do it. [Laughs.] But we’ll see how things progress…

—The fact that there is the amnesty law, and that you probably won’t even be judged or disqualified, has it changed your perspective?
—Administratively, it would simplify my life, but that’s a second-order variable, it’s not very important.

—These days, people were thinking: if there’s Ponsatí and Graupera, and Ponsatí says she won’t lead the project, will Graupera do it?
—Well, with the names that have come out just now… [Laughs.] That’s a natural conclusion.

—But will he lead it?
—It’s very important for a project that has this ambition to gather a larger number of participants at the forefront than just two people. And it’s one of the things that I, personally, have insisted on until now, and I want to continue that way. It’s crucial to recruit high-quality human resources, and I’ll do as much as I can. As I succeed, I can have a less prominent role.

—But could we find that in the next legislature you’ll be a member of the Parliament of Catalonia?
—We can’t rule it out. But, of course, it’s not just what I want. Nor what my colleagues think is most appropriate. The most important thing is that the voters trust it.

—Of course…
—Also, it will be a very competitive situation.

—And why are you considering running? What has changed?
—In recent months, I didn’t want to talk about electoral options. Nothing has changed, we simply made the decision to announce that we are launching a political project, a party. This decision was made a few days ago. And until this decision is made, we cannot start saying, “maybe in three steps we will have to decide who will be on the electoral list.” And, initially, ruling myself out when resources are very limited isn’t the smartest thing to do. So, for now, we have what we have.

—With Graupera, you already presented yourselves on a list, which was the Primàries Barcelona list. What’s different about this proposal?
—Many things, it was another political moment. We also have to take into account that, although that list didn’t enter the Barcelona City Council, a result similar in quantity to the Parliament of Catalonia might enter. Therefore, those who dismiss this proposal based on that failure should do better math.

—Many things, you say. Like what?
—That was a list made in 2019, when the country’s consciousness was still very focused on the prison issue. The credibility of the Catalan establishment political parties, which has now deteriorated significantly, was still very high. Now it’s different. At that time, it was difficult to criticize those parties because there were people in prison, and that conditioned the country’s emotional state. Now it can be done more calmly, with less emotional blackmail. For example, I closed that Primàries Barcelona list at the same time as I participated in President Puigdemont’s list in the European elections. At that time, I didn’t see it as a conflict. Now things are very different.

—And did you learn anything from it?
—The Primàries discourse was very difficult to put into practice without generating more difficulties than the advantages that a participatory movement theoretically created. At the moment, we’re not considering something in those terms. In fact, that’s one of the things that sets us apart. But we’ll see, because just as we ask people to sign up, we also ask them to participate. So how the political organization around Alhora will be concretized is very open.

—At that time, Primàries had the support of the ANC. Now the Assemblea is opting for a civic list.
—The Assembly is voting on it right now. We’ll see.

—The secretariat defends the civic list.
—From the beginning, I’ve said that this initiative seems like a bad idea to me. In the current political moment, it’s a simplistic idea. Political parties are not leading us to independence, so let’s make a list without political parties. Since the country wants independence, this list will have a majority and we’ll achieve independence. The argument, read like that, seems attractive, but the problem is that it’s not like that. If the consultation results in a “yes” for the list, it will be a list that comes out of a very complicated procedure, we don’t know who will be leading it. And this list would end up competing with the other parties. To do this, it’s more appropriate to set up a political organization that competes with political parties using the tools they use. The question is: what would happen if this so-called civic list enters parliament but doesn’t have a majority? Because, honestly, the scenario where this list gets sixty-eight deputies, and the political parties shut down, I don’t think is likely. What will they do, then, with this tool? Continuing this requires political structure. A political party is needed, and that’s something the Catalan National Assembly cannot do.

—But there are similarities…
—Yes, of course, but we’ll see which proposals actually materialize and which don’t. Maybe both. Then we’ll see what implications it has. Clearly, I don’t think it’s a good alternative, but we’ll talk about it when the consultation ends. This week, they already told us that there were very brilliant candidates to lead the Assembly, so we’ll see what the next stage will be.

—Have you talked to the Assembly, in these months that you say you’ve had private conversations?
—Privately, I’ve been persistently tempted as a potential candidate for the Llista Cívica. And I’ve always made it clear that I wouldn’t participate in an operation like this, with the civic list. Now, since these were private conversations, I’ve kept them private. But, well, if anyone is disappointed because they thought I would be a tool for this operation, I’m sorry. I’m not, and I won’t be.

—There are people who will say that you have things in common…
—Of course! The desire for independence, concern for the country… Of course, there are many things in common. But it’s not up to me now to start giving ideas on how to fix the possible crisis of the National Catalan Assembly. That’s something the associates have to solve with the mechanisms they have.

—But are you worried that these two similar alternatives might present themselves? Some people say there will be many lists…
—Obviously, when one opts for a political competition, the fewer competitors, the better. [Laughs.] But we have decided to take this step knowing that it won’t be easy. Now, about these claims that there will be many pro-independence lists… Well, if the political parties currently in parliament did their job, we wouldn’t make this proposal. And I doubt there will be so many lists. There may be many lists defining themselves with independence, but of political parties within the Parliament of Catalonia advancing in this direction right now, I allow myself to affirm that there aren’t any.

—Do you think your list could hinder the entry of Aliança Catalana into the Parliament?
—All democratic and non-xenophobic alternatives should be able to hinder it. Everyone who is democratic and patriotic should be concerned about the growth of xenophobia in Catalonia. It’s part of a global trend, and pretending that we are immune to this trend would be naive. On the other hand, it’s evident that there is a significant part of the country that feels nationally abandoned, and the temptation to console oneself with proposals that focus more on the non-Catalanism of newcomers than on combating Spanish occupation can reassure a part of the independence movement, but it’s a mistake.

—Currently, you are a Member of the European Parliament for Junts.
—Yes, I’ve always said so, but I’ll say it again: I participated in a list before Junts existed as a political party and as an independent. And as such, I will finish the mandate. I am independent and I am in the non-attached group; my status as an independent has no implications for political grouping. And yes, I have worked in the European Parliament, alongside President Puigdemont and Mr. Toni Comín, as well as with the MEPs from Esquerra. Well, I have been working for four and a half years and that ends in late April.

—Some criticize you for forming a party while being in another group.
—Who criticizes that? If someone wants to publicly criticize it, I’ll discuss it. But I don’t need to spend time responding to accusations from anonymous people. It could be discussed, but I would like to have them in person, with names.

—So, is the intention to finish the legislature?
—We are in March, the last plenary session is in April. And then there will be the election campaign, in which I will not participate. And when it’s over, the mandate ends.

—What have you learned during these years in the European Parliament?
—Oh, many things. I suspected it, but I have learned very firmly that Europe will not do the work that the Catalans do not do. And that the European institutions are very captured by the status quo and, although they have mechanisms of democratic control, they have a strong bias in favor of the status quo, which are the member states. And one of these member states, and very important, is Spain. Member states are tolerated many things that, on paper, should not be tolerated. However, having a voice is important because even though it seems like it’s not listened to, this voice does reach. And in situations where it seems you have very little to gain, persistence pays off. And that’s why I would say I’ve learned to insist.

—Is there anything you feel particularly proud of?
—I find it difficult to boast. But I am proud of not having missed any opportunity to denounce the abuses of Spain. I have systematically chosen those issues where I could denounce Spanish occupation and its human rights abuses. I am also very satisfied – proud seems a bit exaggerated – with the work my team and I did, compiling all the abuses of the rule of law by Spain. It’s a not very glamorous job, but I believe it’s valuable because it’s a very rigorous and comprehensive inventory; everything is there.

—And could you have done this without Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín?
—Well, these two things I mentioned specifically, yes. Obviously, without Carles Puigdemont, I would not have reached the European Parliament. When one goes on a closed list, where there is such a powerful figurehead as President Puigdemont, it’s very difficult to attribute merits to those who are in positions two and three.

—The relationship is not very good now, is it?
—The political relationship, no.

—Do you regret it?
—I regret that the political relationship, which is one of disagreement, has not allowed for a more open debate. And that has not been because I didn’t want it. But, well, the will to debate on both sides cannot be imposed. I would have liked to discuss amnesty or agreements with Pedro Sánchez in public. That has not been possible. There hasn’t been a debate on the part of President Puigdemont. He is a person who intervenes very little publicly. He administers his public interventions a lot. It’s his way of doing politics, and I can’t do anything about it.

—Have you talked about it in private?
—Private matters should remain private.


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