Thursday 10/28/21

Separatists have majority in Catalonia, but socialists the most voted

The result is likely to prolong the independence debate that has been going on for years with the rest of Spain, which does not want Catalonia to become independent.
14 February 2021, Spain, Barcelona: Salvador Illa, candidate of the Socialists' Party of Catalonia, gives a press conference upon his arrival at his party's headquarters, minutes before the polls close during the Catalan regional elections. Photo: Lorena Sopêna I Lòpez/EUROPA PRESS/dpa
Salvador Illa, candidate of the Socialists' Party of Catalonia, at his party's headquarters, before the polls close. Photo: Lorena Sopêna I Lòpez/dpa.

Catalonia's separatist parties are on track to win a majority of seats in Sunday's parliamentary elections, with more than 99% of votes counted.

The result is likely to prolong the independence debate that has been going on for years with the rest of Spain, which does not want Catalonia to become independent.

The separatists are expected to claim a combined total of 73 to 80 seats in the regional parliament in Barcelona, where the required absolute majority is 68 seats of a total of 135 seats.

But the socialist PSOE, called the PSC in Catalonia, is the single party projected to receive the most votes - with 23% and 33 seats, according to numbers from newspaper La Vanguardia.

The socialists are against the secession of the region in the north-east of the country. But unlike the former conservative government of the People's Party, they are open to negotiations.

Their top candidate, former Spanish health minister Salvador Illa, called for reconciliation among Spaniards and Catalans on election night.

"Hope is stronger than fear," he said, as he signalled his claim to the office of regional government head.

Pere Aragones of the left-wing separatist party Esquerra Republicana (ERC) claimed the same post on election night.

Minority government

Since elections in December 2017, the ERC has led a minority government together with the liberal-conservative and separatist Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) and smaller parties.

In Sunday's election, the ERC is now expected to come second with 21%, but will claim the same number of seats as the socialists.

This is because votes from rural areas carry more weight than those from big cities like Barcelona - and they tend to have more separatist voters.

Third place appears set to go to the separatist JuntsxCat with around 20% and 32 seats. In the separatist camp, there is also the far-left CUP with about 6.5% and 9 seats.

The socialists' only hope is that the ERC and JuntsxCat are unable to agree to work together.

The PSOE/PSC are seen as a more appropriate partner for the ERC, whose lawmakers in Spain's national parliament in Madrid support the minority government led by socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

However, all of the separatist parties have agreed not to join forces with Illa.

Low voter turnout

Spain's largest opposition party, the conservative People's Party, is set to take about 3.8% and only 3 seats. They were beaten by the right-wing populist Vox, which surged to almost 8% and 11 seats.

The liberal Ciudadanos fell to 5.5% and 6 seats.

Unidas Podemos, which governs in Madrid with the Socialists and is called En Comu Podem in Catalonia, was able to roughly maintain its result from 2017, coming in at just under 7% and 8 seats.

In light of the pandemic, voter turnout fell to just over 50% - much lower than in the 2017 election.

The status of Catalonia in relation to the rest of Spain is still the dominant political issue in the region.

The separatist minority government had called for a new parliamentary election after regional president Quim Torra was deposed by the Spanish judiciary for insubordination in September and Pere Aragones took over the office on an interim basis.

The reason for Torra's removal was that the 58-year-old had refused to take symbols of the independence movement down from the seat of his government and other public buildings.

Following an illegal independence referendum, Catalonia was placed under emergency measures in autumn 2017 by the then-conservative central government of Mariano Rajoy.

The regional president at the time, Carles Puigdemont, fled to exile in Belgium. Many separatists were sentenced to long prison terms.