A Brief History of Ciudadanos (C’s)
Although originally a Catalan party, Ciutadans are beginning to win representation and support in the rest of Spain and so also go under the name Ciudadanos and add the epithet Partido de la Ciudadania in Spanish.
According to their own definition, they are social democrat, progressive liberal and non-nationalist and claim to defend the rights of citizens against the impositions of the administration and institutions.
However, due to the party’s radical opposition to Catalanism and the Catalan independence movement, in Catalonia, Ciutadans are generally perceived as being relatively right-wing.
In fact, the basic motivation behind the founding of Ciutadans was to oppose all aspects Catalanism, which they call Catalan Nationalism and claim has caused divisions in Catalan society since the Transition.
Ciutadans are particularly outspoken about the use of the Catalan language in schools.
Although Ciutadans claim to be social democrats and that their official policies defend personal freedoms, equality amongst individuals and bilingualism in Catalonia, they are often described by their opponents as pro-Spanish, anti-Catalan and Lerrouxist, because of the similarity of their anti-Catalan discourse to Alexandre Lerroux’s Partit Republicà Radical in the lead up to the Spanish Civil War.
Ciutadans first stood for elections in 2006 but the party’s origins come from the civil platform Ciutadans de Catalunya, which was created in June 2005 by a group of Catalan professionals in opposition to Catalan nationalism.
In March 2006, the group decided to form a political party and at their first conference in July 2006, Albert Rivera was elected President and Antonio Robles was elected General Secretary as well as a General Council comprising 35 members.
Only one of the founder members of the pressure group, Teresa Giménez Barbat, became part of the party leadership and in the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia of 2006, Ciutadans won three seats in the Catalan Parliament – Albert Rivera, José Domingo Domingo and Antonio Robles – all in the Province of Barcelona.
Under its Spanish name, Ciudadanos began to expand throughout the rest of Spain and presented 52 candidates for the 2008 General Elections.
In 2009, Antonio Robles left Ciutadans for UPyD renouncing his seat in favour of Carmen de Rivera whilst José Domingo also left the party but retained his seat and joined the Grup Mixt of the Catalan Parliament.
In October 2009, the party launched the anti-Catalan nationalist campaign “Catalunya som tots” and in September 2010, Albert Rivera took part in a pro-bullfighting demonstration at the former bullring, Monumental in Barcelona.
In the Catalan Autonomic Elections of November 2010, Ciutadans once again won three seats – Albert Rivera, Carmen de Rivera and Jordi Cañas.
In the Autonomic Elections of November 2012, which Artur Mas had brought forward in response to the massive pro-independence demonstration of September 11th 2012,
Ciutadans anti-independence position paid off and the party tripled its representation and won 9 seats.
In the European Elections of May 2014, Ciutadans stoods as Espanya de Moviment Ciutadà and won two seats – Javier Nart and Joan Carles Girauta – after obtaining a much lower vote in Catalonia than in 2012.
At present, the party is expanding throughout Spain and as one of the new generation of parties is likely to make inroads into the conventional Partido Popular vote in the Municipal elections of May 2015.
I also expect Ciutadans to make a strong showing in the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia that have been brought forward to September 2015 and will act as a proxy referendum on Catalan independence, especially if the pro-Unionist parties stand on a common platform and so avoid splitting the anti-independence vote.