Understanding the Catalan elections, the political parties and the issues, can be quite daunting. But never fear, Blog About Spain will explain all.
Catalan parties are divided in 2 groups: the nationalists and the españolistas. Nationalists include CIU, a right wing coalition group, ERC, an extreme-left party that supports secession from Spain, ICV, an eco-communist group associated to the Spanish communist party and PSC, the Catalan version of the ruling socialist party. The españolista group includes 2 parties: center-right PP, who are the main opposition party in Spain, and center-left Ciudadanos, a movement of intellectuals who were highly critical of nationalism and won 3 seats in the last election.
CIU are always the most voted-for party in Catalonia. Ever since the first Catalan elections after Franco they had been in power. That was until 8 years ago, when a left-wing nationalist coalition, comprised of ERC, ICV and led by PSC, took over. This government, known as the tripartito, has had a shaky run. PSC, by nature more moderate both in its leftism and nationalism, suddenly found itself embracing a radical agenda which has hurt the reputation nationwide of the party it is part of, the ruling Socialists. Some of the more controversial laws it has passed include handing out fines to shops that don’t give information in Catalan, banning bullfighting, opening expensive Catalan “embassies” around the world and forcing college professors who want to teach in Catalonia to learn Catalan, even if they are not Spanish. Nor have they reversed the trend inherited by the previous CIU government by which all education is held in Catalan (except for Spanish and English class) and civil servants all have to speak Catalan. One has to take into account that, according to official statistics, Spanish exceeds Catalan in Catalonia both in usage as a first language and as an everyday language. Because of these laws the U.S. state department has criticized the state of human rights in the region, and the Allgemeine Zeitung has said that “what’s happening in Catalonia now hadn’t happened in Europe since the 1930’s”.
The issue which has united all nationalists in the past 4 years has been the wait for the ruling on the Catalan statute. Approved by voters in 2006, this legal document was meant to regulate the relation between the Catalan and Spanish governments. But, after a referendum which gave it a 73,9% approval but with a participation of only 49,41% of the electorate, the text was taken to the Spanish Supreme Court where it waited for a ruling for 4 years. Only part of the document was considered constitutional, and all nationalist parties joined in a demonstration against the court.
At the same time, Catalonia, once by far the richest and most prosperous region in Spain is now growing at one fourth of the rate Madrid is. It is no surprise, therefore, that according to polls, the tripartito is facing dire results in this weeks election. PSC, ERC and ICV are all looking a at a loss of votes. PSC have promised not to repeat the pact and are moving towards the españolista faction of their own party. CIU are set for a big win, but will probably have to find another party to reach an agreement with.
This party could be the PP, which would make for a centre-right coalition composed of nationalists and españolistas. If the experiment goes well, the pact could repeat in 2 years time at a national level. Update: Noa Todo has just sent me a video of the PP candidate, Alicia Sánchez Camacho, denying any possibility of a pact with CIU. Check the comment section. Thanks, Noa!
Abstention is set to be high in the election, despite an array of fringe parties which include an anti-immigration group, the ex-president of FC Barcelona football club Joan Laporta with a porn actress, a transvestite with an Elvis look-alike and many more. The election will take place on November 28th.
If you’re doubting on who to vote for and speak Spanish or Catalan, you can take this simple test.