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Two little girls wearing the "star", the banner used by the Catalan separatists, and the Spanish flag, stroll through the streets of Barcelona during a demonstration in October. – Photo credits: Emilio Morenatti/AP

VIDEO – The Catalans elect a new Parliament on Thursday, but the crisis with Madrid will probably not end with this election.

Special Envoy to Barcelona –  Mathieu de Taillac

The Catalan elections of this Thursday are the find of the president of the Spanish government. Mariano Rajoy thus intended to put an end to the unprecedented secessionist crisis which culminated on 27 October with the declaration of independence by the regional parliament. As part of Article 155 of the Constitution, which makes it possible to place a rebel region under trusteeship, and which had never been used, Rajoy took control of Catalan institutions for the time strictly necessary to dissolve Parliament and call new elections. Through this minimal application of Article 155, Madrid intended to nip any criticism of authoritarianism in the bud and dreamed of permanently defeating independence, who had proven his inability to implement the newly proclaimed Republic.

It was counting without the action of justice, which maintains in preventive detention four secessionist leaders, including the head of the list of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, center left), Oriol Junqueras; without the maneuver of the deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, who leads the campaign of his Junts per Catalunya list (JpC, center right) from Belgium where he has taken refuge to avoid his arrest; and without the emotional strategy of the separatists, who rather than defending the meager results of their action - the theoretical Catalan Republic has not been recognized by any country in the world -, presents these elections as a referendum between the supposed Spanish repression and freedom of the Catalans to hold the reins of their destiny.

"Either the country wins or it's Rajoy!"

Carles Puidgemont

Tuesday evening, ERC held its last meeting in front of the prison of Estremera, in the region of Madrid, where Junqueras is detained, to finish drawing all possible electoral benefit from the personal difficulties of its head of the list. JpC once again connected to Brussels, from where Puigdemont spoke by videoconference to his activists, who listened to him in a hundred concurrent meetings. “Either the country wins, or it's Rajoy!” he dramatized.

Result: there is no reason to believe that this ballot does not resolve the unprecedented state crisis hitting Spain, threatened, at least in rhetoric, with dislocation, and Catalonia, where more than 3000 companies have announced the transfer of their headquarters to other Spanish regions. According to the latest survey published byThe Periodic from Andorra, a subsidiary used by a Catalan daily to publish its investigations beyond the legal deadline in Spain, the bloc of the three pro-independence lists can obtain an absolute majority of 68 seats… or just miss it.

This study grants a bracket of 36-37 seats to ERC, 26-27 to JpC, and 5-6 to Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP, far left). Opposite, the bloc favorable to the unity of Spain is led by Ciudadanos (C's, liberal center), to whom the poll gives 31 or 32 deputies, followed by the Socialists (PSC, 20 or 21) and by the Parti popular (PP, 4 or 5), the conservative formation of Rajoy. Between the two, Catalunya en Comu Podem (CECP, radical left), neither separatist nor unionist, dreams of being the kingmaker of a very difficult post-election alliance.

If the separatists repeat their absolute majority, they will seek an agreement to stay in power. Negotiations promise to be difficult between ERC and JpC. And if the majority is small, the secessionists will not be able to afford to give up votes to deputies in prison or abroad. Unless the strategy is precisely to cause the blockage, attributing it to the supposed Spanish authoritarianism which would prevent a legitimately elected majority from governing...

The risk of cross vetoes

“CECP says it has the key to the majority, recalls Joan Marcet, professor of political science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. But some alliances are impossible. The three left-wing parties ERC, CUP and CECP will not have a majority, and the PSC will refuse to join them. A C's – PSC – CECP – PP bloc also seems unthinkable.”

To avoid cross vetoes between the radical left and the center right, the head of the PSC list, Miquel Iceta, believes he has a solution: that we invest him president, even if he comes fourth, because his program would be the most central of the four non-independence forces. “But even if Ciudadanos agreed to hand over the presidency, the Iceta option is very complicated for CECP, which will find it difficult to associate with the PP and even with C's, perceived in Catalonia as more to the right than in the rest of Europe. Spain”, explains the political scientist.

Finally, there is one last possibility, governed by Catalan legislation. If no government is formed in February, new elections will automatically be called in April. In this hypothesis, Catalonia would look a lot like Spain, which had to vote in June 2016 after the December 2015 elections failed to give birth to a government.


6 SEPTEMBER The Catalan Parliament adopts a law authorizing the organization of a referendum on the independence of the region on October 1st.

20 SEPTEMBER Several Catalan officials are arrested by the Civil Guard.

October 1st The referendum takes place under tension. It leads to a victory for the yes with 90,18% of the votes cast, with 43% participation. Nearly 850 people are injured by the police.

3 OCTOBER King Felipe VI deplores the "irresponsible attitude" of Catalan leaders.

10 OCTOBER Carles Puigdemont proclaims the right of the region to become an independent state while suspending the implementation of the process in order to allow a dialogue.

11 OCTOBER Madrid are giving the Catalan executive eight days to drop their target.

21ST OF OCTOBERAfter an extraordinary council of ministers, Mariano Rajoy announces, under article 155 of the Constitution, the dismissal of the regional government and the management of the Parliament of Catalonia and says he wishes to hold early regional meetings.

27ST OF OCTOBER The Catalan Parliament adopts a unilateral declaration of independence and comes out in favor of a “constituent process” in order to separate Catalonia. With the agreement of the Spanish Senate, Rajoy announces the dismissal of the Catalan executive, the dissolution of the regional parliament and the holding of early elections on 21 December.

2 November Provisional detention of nine Catalan leaders. A European arrest warrant targets Carles Puigdemont, who won Belgium on October 30.

11 November Hundreds of thousands of independence supporters march through Barcelona to demand the release of the separatists.

DECEMBER 5 Withdrawal of the international arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four members of his former government.

Source: ©  Catalonia: a referendum-like vote

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