With the death of the dictator, the mobilisations and political and social pressures increased. In June 1977 the first general elections were held and in March 1980 the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia were convoked and, against all prognosis, ‘Convergència i Unió’ [Convergence and Union] won.
At the end of 1974, the regime, in spite of the murder by vile garrotte of the anarchist Salvador Puig Antich, started to weaken. The execution of Puig Antich made the Catalan political formations increase their presence, as can be witnessed by the cycle organised in 1975 by the ‘Institut Catòlic d’Estudis Socials de Barcelona’ [Catholic Institute of Social Studies of Barcelona] which was known as ‘Les Terceres Vies a Europa’ [The Other Ways in Europe], which were a set of conferences that served for the Catalan political leaders to expose their political approaches in front of a future democracy.
Soon after the death of the dictator, the ‘Consell de Forces Polítiques de Catalunya’ [Board of Political Powers of Catalonia] was created. It was headed by ‘Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya’ [Democratic Convergence of Catalonia], which was directed by the banker and political activist Jordi Pujol, and was made up of eleven Catalan political formations. The principal aim of the Board was to construct a provisional government of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
During the government of Carlos Arias the political mobilizations multiplied against it, as for example the days convoked by the ‘Assemblea de Catalunya’ [Assembly of Catalonia] in favour of amnesty and the Statute from February 1st-8th 1976. The governmental weakness was becoming more evident, which was an event that implied, in July 1976, that Adolfo Suárez was chosen as the president of the Spanish government. In spite of the approval of general political amnesty at the end of July, the political and social pressure continued with the manifestation of September 11th 1976 in Sant Boi de Llobregat.
On December 15th 1976 the referendum was held about the ‘Llei de Reforma Política’ [Law of Political Reform]. Although Catalonia and the Basque Country had higher indexes of abstention, Suárez’ government won the consultation and forced the opposition to negotiate to realise the political transition.
The Board of Political Powers participated in the negotiations with the Spanish government, which did not please the Assembly of Catalonia or the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya in exile, that is, Josep Tarradellas because they did not want to be excluded from the future agreements. The Assembly was not in favour of negotiating with central government; however, Suárez had initiated talks with the principal leaders of the opposition.
On June 15th 1977 the first general elections were held and the ‘Unión de Centro Democrático’ [Union of Democratic Centre] party of Adolfo Suárez imposed itself. In Catalonia, the winning strength was the ‘Partit Socialista de Catalunya-Partido Socialista Obrero Español’ [Socialist Party of Catalonia- Spanish Socialist Working Class Party], which was followed by the ‘Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya’ [Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia]. The results of these elections propelled what is known as ‘Operació Tarradellas’ [Operation Tarradellas]. The president of the Spanish government negotiated directly with Tarradellas for the reestablishment of the Generalitat. During the first conversations, Adolfo Suárez only recognised the figure of Tarradellas and offered the possibility that a type of Mancomunitat of deputations could be built instead of the restoration of the Generalitat. This was an offering that the Catalan political formations and the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya flatly rejected.
In the course of the summer of 1977, various negotiations were undertaken between Josep Tarradellas and his collaborators with the representatives of the government. Between the negotiators of the government, we must point out the old civil governor of Barcelona, Salvador Sánchez Terán. In spite of the good development of these conversations, they remained stalled until the month of September. They were only taken up again after ‘a million people’ participated in the September 11th demonstration of 1977.
On September 28th 1977, Tarradellas and Sánchez Terán reached an agreement to re-establish the Generalitat de Catalunya and the creation of a provisional government of unity. The nomination of John Charles I as the monarch and Josep Tarradellas as the president of the Generalitat allowed Tarradellas to definitively return to the Catalan capital on October 23rd, where he was received by some three-hundred thousand people. Nevertheless, the reestablishment of the Generalitat only equalled the recognition of the Catalan government of the Second Republic, because the Catalan institution had not any of its own competencies and was basically sustained by the Diputació de Barcelona, which was also presided over by Tarradellas.
On December 5th 1977, the president of the Generalitat created a government of unity with the group of political powers who had given their support to the creation of the Statute. In spite of the lack of powers and budget, Tarradellas was able to issue some decrees, for example like that of obligatory teaching of the Catalan language in the education system. On January 28th 1978 the ‘Comissió Mixta’ [Mixed Commission] of transferrals of the government of the Generalitat was created to negotiate with the Spanish government, by which the only accomplishments were certain powers in the ambits of agriculture and town planning. In spite of the political unity shown until then, the political formation started to undertake the project of Statute without president Tarradellas, who was looking to extend the provisional period as far as he could.
In the interim, on July 21st the Constitution was approved in the Spanish Congress, which was later ratified, without obstacle, with the Constitutional Referendum of December 6th 1978. The whole of the Catalan formation with parliamentary representation gave support and carried-out canvassing for the yes vote. The said Constitution, with an appropriate direct participation from the Catalan politicians, was characterised by the search for consensus, which was an event which obliged them to renounce the sovereignty or the federal reform of the State, because they had to elaborate a text that endeavoured to satisfy all of the political powers.
The aforementioned text tried to please the Catalan and Basque posture and the emerging regionalist re-vindication which had begun to appear all over the State. This new general political panorama drove Suárez to offer all the regions of the country the possibility of becoming an autonomous community, with government, parliament and its own powers. This was a proposal which copied that which had been gained for Catalonia and which had later been known as the ‘café para todos’ [coffee for everyone]. This was an act which evidently did not please the Catalans or the Basques, because it gave rise to the attempt to dissolve their specificity.
While the debates of the Constitution went on, the process of redaction of the preliminary Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia commenced. The Assembly of Parliamentarians designated, without telling president Tarradellas, the elaboration of the text of the Statute to the group which is known as the ‘Comissió dels Vint’ [Commission of the Twenty]. As had happened with the Magna-Carta, the consensus was also quite wide, with the exception of the subject of electoral rules. The text was approved by the plenary of the Assembly, in the presence of Josep Tarradellas, on December 29th 1978, but it was not ratified by the Spanish Courts until November 29th and by the Senate on December 12th 1979. Finally, the Statute came into force on April 1st 1980. However, before the voting of the referendum for the passing of the Statute took place on October 25th 1979. The yes vote obtained an important 88,1%, all though we must say that the level of abstention was high at 40,6%.
The definitive text contained a lot of subjects which required further attention, so that, later on, the Parliament could take the decisions which were necessary. The aim of the twenty speakers was to gain a greater number of powers. The Statute defined Catalonia as a ‘nationality’ which is constituted as an autonomous community and recognised the Generalitat as the institution of Catalan self-government. It also considered Catalan as the language of Catalonia and co-official with Spanish. In spite of the numerous improvements, in comparison with the Statute of 1932, such as in fields like teaching, linguistic and cultural politics, Ministry of Finance, public works, healthcare, town planning, land planning, tourism and media, it also went backwards in such fundamental fields as justice, public order and administrative structure and left those fields that needed the cooperation between central administration and the Generalitat in a confused state.
To all of this, we must add that on March 1st 1979 general elections took place, which were won again by the UCD, although with only a slight margin. In Catalonia, the left wing formations gained the electoral victory again. Two months later, on April 3rd, the first democratic municipal elections took place with a clear predominance of the left wing parties.
On March 20th 1980, elections were held for the Parliament of Catalonia, which were won, against all prognosis, by the nationalist formation ‘Convergència i Unió’ [Convergence and Union]. The nomination of Jordi Pujol as the new president of the Generalitat de Catalunya marked the end of the provisional nature of this institution and of the government of unity presided over by Josep Tarradellas.
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