Upcoming elections in Spain and Catalonia’s invisibility

Next November the 20th, on the anniversary of Franco’s death, there will be elections to the Spanish Parliament. Nobody has any doubt that right wing PP will win by an overwhelming majority of the votes since the current crisis and Zapatero’s frivolous policies have payed too high a toll on PSOE’s credibility. However, nobody knows what PP will do once they win, probably not even themselves.

Even though some Catalans claim that there’s no reason for Catalans to vote on those elections I disagree. Representation at the Spanish Parliament is very important since, while we are not independent, many things affecting Catalonia are decided there and therefore we need to defend our interests. Plus it is also a good way of publicizing Catalonia’s independence since many Catalans read Spanish centric media and all foreign correspondents are based in Madrid and only see what goes on there.

Last tuesday there was a face to face debate on the Spanish public TV between PSOE’s candidate Rubalcaba and PP’s Rajoy. Ignoring the fact that there are 10 different parties in the Congreso de los Diputados and therefore no reason to invite only 2 of them to a debate. During the debate Catalonia was not mentioned once. Not a single word regarding the Catalan fiscal deficit, the Constitutional Court amendment of the Catalan Statute, the dismantling of the the language immersion in schools or the mediterranian freight railway line or even their opinion how 75.7% of voters think Catalonia needs a new fiscal deal that guarantees collection of all taxes or that 65% of votes would go to independence. Nothing.

To illuatrate this, when the show started and the presenter greeted the Portuguese and Italian audiences (since the debate was being broadcasted by TV channels from those countries) in their languages but did not say a word in their languages to the Catalan, Basque or Galician speaking audiences (even though ignoring all other languages that are not Spanish is the norm in Spanish public TV)

On wednesday there was another debate on the Spanish public TV where out of the 10 parties only 5 were allowed to take part and ERC, with 3 deputies, was left out while IU (Spanish left wing), with only 2 deputies, was included. They claimed IU is a “nation wide” (meaning Spanish State-wide ) party as opposed to ERC which only available in Catalan countries. Therefore IU is more relevant. This left out a party that represents more than 200000 voters when the easiest would have been to bring extra chairs.

To me, all this, aside from the lack of democratic culture. Shows how scared the Spanish are of any actual debate about Catalonia (or Catalonia’s independence).

And finally some self criticism. I guess Spanish politicians don’t really feel that they need to say much about Catalonia since PP and PSOE are going to be two of the 3 most voted parties in Catalonia. They probably feel they have more to lose than to gain from doing so.

However, it is worrying that at the time when independentism is as its height voters don’t feel any of the available Catalan parties will be able to defend their interests in Madrid. This has been studied before. Voters change their vote depending of the elections. For the Catalan elections they’ll vote the party the party they want at the Generalitat but for the Spanish elections they’ll vote with a Spanish frame of mind.

Only a referendum of independence will show actual support of independence. One cannot infer that ERC’s 3 deputies at the Spanish Parliament reflect the social support to Catalonia’s independence. It would be like saying that only people who vote ecologist parties are concerned with the environment.

Also, some good news, it seems that, as I pointed out before, the change in the leaderships in ERC is already improving the expected results, which initially predicted ERC would lose their 3 deputies. Now it seems they may be able to keep them. I’m also happy about how the integration with Reagrupament and Catalunya Sí brings us closer to a broad Catalan independentist coalition for the next Catalan elections in 2014.

New leaderships for Catalan Independentism

ERC have gone from being on their way to being the second Catalan party to being in danger of becoming irrelevant after the last two rounds of elections and has left Catalan independentism clearly underrepresented in the Catalan Parliament. It seems now that the party has finally come to the conclusion that it needs to change strategy since the current prioritizing the left wing policies over the independentism has proven disastrous. Also, ERC hasn’t been able to deal with the different ideological and power struggles from within which have progressively weakened it.

Since May it has not been able to be an effective oposition and make CiU’s contradictions more clear in the face of the severe cuts applied to the Generalitat’s budget and the deals CiU has closed with PP.

So when internal elections in ERC were called everyone looked over to Brussels for Oriol Junqueras. Junqueras, an independent euro MP for ERC has stayed away from all the internal struggles while at the same time managing to collect a promising array of successes. His most recent achievement was to win the the municipal elections in Sant Vicenç dels Horts, the biggest council that ERC have won in the past municipal elections. Junqueras is now virtually ERC’s president, since noone else has taken a step forward to compete for the position.

Junqueras has managed to articulate a Catalan front, siding with CiU (Ramon Tremosa) and ICV (Oriol Romeva), in Brussels and also in Sant Vincenç which great success in defending Catalan interests and creating a set of alliances which make sense and that many people would like to see translated into the Catalan and Spanish Parliaments.

Junqueras’ appointment as leader of ERC sends a very clear message. ERC wants to take the lead as the main party of Catalan independentism. Also, a lot of care has been taken to avoid internal struggles and to make the handover period as smooth and peaceful as possible.

But now a new front has been opened. The upcoming elections to the Spanish Parliament (Congreso de los Diputados) on November the 20th finds ERC in the middle of its transition. On September the 17th ERC members will also elect their candidate for the Spanish elections. The
options are Joan Ridao and Alfred Bosch.

Bosch, a successful writer and historian, was the spokesman for Barcelonadecideix.cat, the entity formed by volunteers which organised the popular referendum for independence in Barcelona last April, and has accepted the challenge at Junqueras’ request. Bosch is perceived, as an independent, to be an excellent choice for leading a Catalan coalition in Madrid.

If Bosch is elected interesting things may happen. Reagrupament have already shown interest in a coalition and the members of SI have voted that the party can only go to Madrid within a Catalan coalition, so they are forced to speak with ERC. If this finally takes place it could steal a chunk of votes from CiU since their candidate Duran i Lleida has a clear profile against independence and many of CiU’s independentist voters would not feel comfortable voting him.

Pictures by Oriol Junqueras and BarcelonaDecideix2011