Analysing the Catalan elections

On sunday the catalan elections took place and the question, more than who was going to win since it was clear it was going to be CiU, was how much support the government parties were going to lose and whether any new parties were getting in the Parliament. For a start we have that Artur Mas will soon be the 129th president of the Generalitat.

Looking at the results, in the case of the Catalan branch of PSOE, they’ve gotten their worst results. Less than 30 deputies and losing in their usual stronghold, the Barcelona metropolitan area, to CiU. Esquerra, the left wing catalan “independentists” have also been severely punished by their lack of coherence of being in the government with a spanish nationalist party while calling themselves independentists. Their strategy to become the left wing reference party in Catalonia has proven wrong and insisting on holding to the government has made them lose more than half their deputies.

As for the new parties, the only new party that has made it has been Laporta’s Solidaritat which has managed to scrape just enough votes to make it in the Parliament. Even though the party is only a few months old their strategy of grabbing some of Reagrupament’s ideas (the Unilateral Declaration of Independence) added to the popularity of its leader as former president of the most successful FC Barcelona managed to convince some independentists to give him their support. However, both Solidaritat and Reagrupament have failed to bring new voters to independentist positions since most of the voters of both have come from former voters of Esquerra upset with its lack of commitment with independentism. In fact, adding up the votes of Esquerra, Solidaritat and Reagrupament there’s less voters than Esquerra alone got in the previous Catalan elections, all in all a very bad result for independentism.

Reagrupament, even though making a colossal effort resulting in a very competitive campaign couldn’t get their message through to the voters by not being able to overcome the obstacles, fighting against Laporta’s popularity and the media ban (I’ll write an article about it at some point but new parties are banned from appearing on public media in Catalonia during election period, incredible but true) so the association will have to start a process of redefinition of its strategy since its 3500 associates and its program of political regeneration are valuable assets that must continue to contribute. On a positive side Reagrupament’s success has been to define a new path towards independence that is now partly in Laporta’s hands. We’ll keep an eye on the progress. In any case Catalan independentism must analyse the mistakes made as to why when popular support for independence is higher than ever it has failed to translate this to representation in the Parliament.

On the other side of the national spectrum the Spanish nationalists PP have gained some votes, probably former Spanish nationalist PSOE voters disillusioned with Montilla’s government.

It is worth mentioning that the PxC, a racist party, got almost 80000 votes, on the verge of sitting in the Parliament. Catalan politicians and the society will have to work on integration and immigration policies (however little decision power Catalonia currently may have on these issues) and make an effort to tackle this problem before it gets out of hand.

On the meantime CiU will have a very tough job to do since the Generalitat is in a dire financial situation (40.000 million euros of public debt at the end of the year) and Spain’s finances are starting to be in the spotlight after the Eurozone bailing out Ireland’s economy.

I’m curious (and very skeptical) to see how will CiU maneuver with Spain to stick to their promise of achieving the “concert econòmic” (so that Catalonia manages its own taxes) to stop the financial plundering in a moment when Spain’s economy is also badly hurt and in need of every euro to sustain its colossal and inefficient structure. On the practical side they seem to have forgotten about it already since Felip Puig, one of CiU’s spokespeople, before even starting any negotiation and only two days after the elections, has already declared that having the same tax treatment as Euskadi and Navarra is not viable, I guess he meant that it would not be viable for Spain, because for Catalonia to stay viable it needs, at least, to control its taxes as soon as possible. If this is how they are going to defend the interests of Catalonia then I foresee that we’re up for some very interesting years ahead.

9 thoughts to “Analysing the Catalan elections”

  1. Fair analysis I think, and the need for self-critique and reflexion is a must for everybody, including SCI.
    However, the way not to do it is in the manner of today’s post by Sr Huget. As an ERC voter of many years, I was dismayed to read such a text, devoid of any self-criticism regarding ERC’s own mistakes while in government.

    Albeit the “unashamed” pro-independence representation may be down in number of seats, this is a more “sobiranista” parliament than 4 years ago.
    PSC-PSOE has lost 8 seats, and only 4 of those have gone to the Spanish nationalists of PP. Talking to friends and family, it seems many people that have voted PSOE for decades believing they would deliver on their federalist promise have moved towards CiU after 30 years of lies. CiU has been the most voted party in St Boi de Llobregat for goodness sake, that is an incredible achievement and a sign that Barcelona’s red belt is there for the taking if we work more cleverly than until now.

    Also, we should not discount the number of votes lost because of the lack of a Grand Coalition between SCI and RI. At minimum, 2 extra seats in Parliament if they had joined forces. Probably more with the multiplicative effect: the combination of the two forces would have been much bigger than the individual parts on their own.

    Worth noting that SCI was the second most voted party in Osona.
    If we keep focusing in the strongholds, the rest will follow soon.
    We just need for the tide to turn at the right moment and the rest will happen more quickly than any of us can imagine.

  2. Thanks for your comment Rab. I agree that it is very good news that the Parliament is now revolving around the national axis rather than the left-right axis and I also agree that it is great news that the areas which concentrate the Spanish immigration from the 60s and 70s are now voting Catalan parties.

    This confirms my theory that when the time comes those people will undoubtedly choose Catalonia, since it is where their interests and family are and they have a lot more to gain from independence for instance than small bourgeoisie Catalan families.

  3. I have seen a number of articles about the elections which categorize parties as “left wing”, “center right”, etc., but with no clear definition of what those positions mean.

    I live in a part of the US (northern California) which many people in the US would consider to be slightly left wing, and used to live in a part (San Francisco) which many people in the US would consider far left left. But from what I can tell, they might be considered center right or center in Europe, and not especially leftist at all.

    And when you say that a party is “center right”, do you mean in comparison with other parties in Catalonia? Other parties in Spain? Other parties in western Europe?

    I think that people here (including illegal immigrants) shouldn’t have to worry about being able to pay for basic medical care, and that babies should get good food even if their parents are poor. That puts me pretty far to the left in the US. Where would that put me in Barcelona? Left? Center? Right-wing?

    Perhaps you could publish an article that explains what these terms mean to an outsider. I haven’t found much in English that goes beyond generalities, and my Catalan reading skills are very low (and Google Translate does a poor job on political reporting, perhaps because so much background knowledge is assumed).

  4. Hi Jack, thanks for your comment, what you say is interesting, I agree that many European countries seem to be more social that the US but I don’t know the US system well enough to make a comparison.

    In any case, the point is that Catalan parties, no matter whether they consider themselves left or right, can’t make any policies that might contradict Spanish policies. So unfortunately, until we become independent the left-right debate is pointless.

  5. I might be able to help out with Jack’s questions.

    Usually, whatever puts emphasis on social (not socialist!) policies, such as public health insurance and minimal care for the poor (“babies should get good food “) is mainstream in Europe, yet it is viewed as being on the far left (socialist, right enough) in the States.

    While Europe (still) tends to maintain a welfare-state, financed by the tax contributors, the US has for decades shown a strong belief in the sole responsibility of the individual. What we in Europe call solidarity in the US smacks of an all-too-powerful state.

    From the European viewpoint, the US is a socially cold society letting down the poor, a kind of Darwinist mentality that only the strongest have to survive.

    Words such as “liberal” have an entirely different meaning on either side of the pond. In Europe we are quite aware of this, and many of us fear that our social achievements will be lost by copying the US’ policies, while we do admire the openness of the society on the other side of the Atlantic, the lack of regulations that endorses public initiative and allows the individual a speedier career.

    A combination of the positive sides of both societies would be a great achievement, something that as of now seems rather unattainable to us. The power of big and anonymous corporations is becoming overwhelming, the individualisation of society progresses, the care for “thy neighbour” diminishes as we keep copying you, while you are aborting any attempt at learning from us.

  6. Trying my best, Alex. However, I think I have been a bit injust: in Europe we have learned lots of positive things from the US e.g. on the civil society level.

    And the best, most poignant and thourough criticsim of US politics still comes from within the US itself.

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