Catalan Elections 2015

Analysing Results and Looking to the Future

Participation in the Catalan Elections 2015 has been the highest in history, and although we are free to interpret that as we like, we certainly can't ignore it. The turnout has been 10 points higher than in 2012 and 20 points higher than it was in 2010.

So interest in the Catalan independence issue has obviously increased and those who criticised Artur Mas for boring the Catalan population with so many elections have been proved wrong.

The reason why participation has grown is that everyone realises that a lot is at stake. In fact, the stakes are getting higher with each election. The high level of participation shows the commitment to democracy in Catalonia, which is another point in the Catalans' favour.


A De Facto Plebiscite?

The Spanish government claimed that these elections were just normal ones and not plebiscitary elections. However, the Partido Popular's intense anti-Catalan campaign, and the seriousness with which all the unionist parties have taken these elections, has shown that words haven't been backed up by deeds.

Another point that has already been done to death by the losers is that the pro-independence bloc has an absolute majority of seats but not of votes so this means that they don't have right to move forward with their roadmap or make a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

Once again, the same people that claimed that the elections on September 27th were not a de facto plebiscite are now contradicting themselves and saying that they were plebiscitary elections so only the votes count. The truth is that these elections were autonomic elections with a plebiscitary agenda so both votes and seats count.

 If the 44% of the vote won by the Partido Popular in 2011 gave them an absolute majority in the Spanish Congress and the right to govern how they like, then surely the same rule applies to the parties that have won 47% of the vote in Catalonia.

Parliamentary democracy means that popular sovereignty resides in Parliament, and a political party or coalition with an absolute majority has a mandate to govern. This means that the Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) coalition has the popular backing to follow their 18-month roadmap, and although unlikely, even to make a UDI, under extreme circumstances.

A Bad Night for the Losers

With a tally of only 11 seats, the Partido Popular was the real loser on election night and it's pretty obvious that Spain's governing party has virtually no influence in Catalonia. Fielding a big candidate in terms of height had the opposite effect on the vote in terms of numbers.

It's clear that their authoritarian discourse harking back to Franco's undemocratic regime has lost all credibility with Catalan voters. Perhaps if they were less outdated, they might have been able to compete with Ciudadanos, who with their equally reactionary, but more modern message, went from 9 seats in 2012 to 25 in 2015, making them the second force in the Catalan Parliament and one of the election's big successes.

The PSC was another of the night's main losers. Although the Catalan socialists didn't slip back as much as expected, 16 seats is a very poor showing for the party that governed the Generalitat only five years ago.

It's pretty clear that Pedro Sánchez and Miquel Iceta's empty promises of dialogue, understanding and trying to find an alternative fit for Catalonia in Spain doesn't convince anybody. What's more by only promising to recognise the language and 'singularity' of the Catalan people whilst not mentioning pithier subjects like financing, it's clear that PSC's discourse is empty of content.

Another of the night's losers, perhaps even more so than the annihilated Unió of Duran i Lleida, was Podemos. Lluís Rabell's lack of charisma along with Iglesias and Errejón's tactical mistake of trying to divide Catalans on the basis of their grandparents' birthplace was another outdated argument.

The Catalunya Sí que es Pot coalition won two seats less than the 13 that coaition members Iniciativa de Catalunya polled three years ago. This can only be described as a debacle and places a question mark over the viability of the Podemos project for Spain as a whole.

A Complicated Situation for the Winners

Another of the reasons for the poor CSQEP result was the clarity and coherence of the CUP's campaign. Their rise from 3 seats to 10 showed Podemos that left-wing politics can be radical and committed whilst retaining an appealing sense of humour.

David Fernández and Antonio Baños really do tell it like it is, but bearing in mind the importance of the Catalan independence project, it would be short-sighted for them to be too stubborn over the investiture of Artur Mas as President of the Generalitat.

Mas is not indispensable but his experience and downright stubbornness when dealing with central government is a definite plus for the process so I think it's a bad idea for the CUP to dig their heels in too deeply over the next few days.

With 62 seats, Junts pel Sí were the indisputable victors on election night, even though the CDC-ERC lost seats with respect to 2012. For the independence roadmap to be achievable, they need to reach a stable agreement with the CUP.

The paternalistic tendencies of the former and the radical anti-capitalist stance of the latter make this a tall order, but if I were CUP, I'd be looking to get some solid promises on social issues, cuts and privatisations in return for giving their nominal support in the investiture of the president.

They're likely to find some more sympathetic interlocutors amongst ERC and independent members of the coalition but just a couple of votes in favour would mean the roadmap could be on its way quickly and would bode well for the future.

What Happens Next?

Spanish Nationalists can argue all they like about votes and seats but there's no doubt that the Catalan government that comes out of these elections will be infinitely more legitimate than the current Spanish one. It's got a great deal of popular support and has not come to power on the basis of lies and empty promises.

JxSí has a clear mandate to put its roadmap into practice, although when push comes to shove it would definitely be better if there was a more receptive attitude from the ruling party in Madrid. This means that whether Catalans like it or not the results of the Spanish General Elections in December, just three months into the roadmap, will have a big influence on the extent of the success of the Generalitat's objectives.

The next three months are going to be make or break in many ways and it will be interesting to see how the Partido Popular react. If they do so with excessive vehemence or even violence, they could well provoke general rebuke from the international community. This might finally lead the majority of the Spanish electorate to realise that Catalonia is a problem that has to be dealt with rather than a punch bag that once punched bounces back in your face.

Having said that any combinations of PSOE, Ciudadanos or Podemos feels more like a change of gloves than anything else.

Whatever happens in Madrid, though, Catalonia is moving forward with its own agenda. An electoral victory by votes, someone in central government who's prepared to listen or explicit international support would all have made things easier but there's only one way this can go and that's onward and upward.


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Catalan Elections 2015 Correction 
I agree with your article...just wanted to mention however that if I am not mistaken in 2011 PP got 44% not 32% thanks regards

Spanish Government Should React 
You would have thought the PP and Central Government in Spain would have learnt from Scottish Independence Campaign but they appear to be as unintelligent …

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