With elections to the Catalan Parliament called for November 25th and the campaign about to get under way here in Catalonia, it struck me that a brief overview of the political was in order as if you’re not familiar with Catalan politics, all the names can be a little confusing.
There are 135 seats at stake so an absolute majority is 68. I’ve given the number of seats/percentage of vote each party has in the current legislation in brackets.
The four parties in favour of continuing the independence process are:- Convergència i Unió (62-38.47%), Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (10-7%), Iniciativa per CatalunyaVerds (10-7.39%) and Solidaritat Catalana per a la Independència (4-3.28%). The pro-Independence parties currently hold 86 seats out of 135 corresponding to 56.14% of voters and these numbers look likely to increase following the next election.
I’ll go into more detail about the positions of the respective parties below but the parties who are not in favour of Catalan independence are:- Partido Popular de Cataluña (18-12.33%), Ciutadans (3-4.4%) and Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (28-18.32%). The three parties currently hold 49 out 135 seats corresponding to 35.05% of the electorate. Polls suggest that PPC and Ciutadans are likely to remain solid as the opposition parties (21-16.73%) whilst the PSC will probably lose about a third of its voters.
A gross simplification of the intention to vote culled from various different polls would be 55% in favour of independence, 15% against and 30% undecided.
So let’s look at the parties one by one.
Convergència i Unió (CiU)
CiU are currently Catalonia’s ruling party and look likely to again this time with an absolute majority of more than 67 seats. Under leader Artur Mas, they have been called to lead the pro-independence block although Mas is careful not use the word ‘independence’ preferring terms such as ‘own state’ and ‘sovereignty’. Despite being a Catalan Nationalist party, CiU has never previously come out in favour of independence and has often pacted with the government in Madrid. The lesser member of the coalition – Unió, led by Josep Duran i Lleida – even now are not fully behind the independence movement.
Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC)
PSC have traditionally been the second most powerful party in Catalonia, generally controlling Barcelona City Council. They are affiliated to, but theoretically independent of, PSOE and have always consisted of two factions – one more PSC and the other more PSOE. They are the major casualty of the independence process as their current leadership under Pere Navarro looks more towards Madrid whereas their voters would like to see more of the C in PSC. They also have the problem of being without a coherent policy. They propose federalism but then get publically embarrassed by the PSOE barons in Madrid and the rest of Spain. The big question is ‘Where will the disaffected PSC vote go?’
Partido Popular de Cataluña (PPC)
The Madrid government’s franchise in Catalonia has never been popular but as they capture the anti-Catalan vote, they are inevitably the main party opposing independence and the referendum. The PPC is led by Alicia Sánchez Camacho and their campaign is based on how much they love Catalonia. They even speak in Catalan, which is a little strange as most of their voters are monolingual Spaniards. They may pick up a few frightened CiU voters but I’d be surprised if they capture more than 15% of the vote.
Iniciativa per CatalunyaVerds (ICV)
Formed out of a merger between the old Izquierda Unida Iniciativa per Catalunya and the Green Party, ICV are ecosocialist and Catalanist. They are in favour of independence but leader Joan Herrera is definitely not happy about being in the same boat as CiU and seems to spend as much time criticising Artur Mas as he does Alicia Sánchez Camacho. However, they’ll probably pick up a good number of disaffected PSC voters.
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC)
ERC (Catalan Republican Left) are traditionally Catalonia’s pro-independence party. They’ve suffered from poor leadership in recent years but current leader Oriol Junqueras comes across as much more intelligent and capable than his predecessors. An ex University Professor, he’s succeeding in putting across a left-wing message combined with the idea that being pro-Catalan doesn’t necessarily imply being anti-Spanish, either culturally or linguistically.
Solidaritat Catalana per a la Independència (SI)
Originally, the formation included ex-Barça president Joan Laporta, the idea behind SI was to bring the pro-independence parties together. Led by Alfons López Tena, as a political party in their own right, it’s difficult to see what’s different about their message so they could well disappear. It strikes me that their usefulness is more as a pressure group along Reagrupament lines.
Cs (Citizens) have got a Catalan name but only speak in Spanish. They are anti-independence and propose a strange mixture of right and left-wing policies, which remind me of the National Socialist parties that came into existence during the depression. However, they are likely to pick up the votes of Spanish-speaking ex-PSC voters so they have to be taken into consideration. Leader Albert Rivera reminds me of the early 20th century anti-Catalan leader Alejandro Lerroux – the Emperor of the Paral.lel!