Carles Puigdemont's party came out on top of the separatist bloc.
The block of three separatist groups narrowly saves its majority in the Catalan Parliament, while the anti-independence party Ciudadanos (liberal center) stands in first place. For the first time since the return of democracy to Spain, a non-nationalist force wins Catalan elections. The victory is beautiful, but it risks being useless. The Catalan imbroglio, which Mariano Rajoy intended to resolve by calling these elections himself, only becomes more complex. A presidential candidate is in Belgium, threatened with arrest if he sets foot in Spain. Other elected deputies, essential to the sovereignist majority, are in the same situation or detained in preventive prison.
According to partial results covering 95% of the votes, Ciudadanos won 25,35% of the votes and 37 seats in a Chamber which has 135. Carles Puigdemont won 21,7% of the vote and 34 seats, followed by Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, centre-left independence), with 21,4% and 32 seats. The Socialist Party (PSC) obtains 17 deputies Catalunya en Comu Podem (CECP, radical left), 8 deputies, the Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP, extreme left-wing independence) 4 and the Popular Party (PP, right), the formation of Mariano Rajoy becomes the last party in the region with 3 seats.
From the perspective of the blocks, the separatists save the furniture
From the point of view of the blocks, the separatists save the furniture. The addition of JpC, ERC and the CUP represents 70 parliamentarians, against 72 in the outgoing Parliament, and 47,6% of the votes, i.e. almost the same score as in 2015. The secessionists therefore have the arithmetical possibility of remaining in the power, but the negotiations will prove to be complex. If JpC has always affirmed that Puigdemont was the only possible candidate for his succession, it will also be necessary to deal with judicial reality: if he sets foot in Spain, he will be arrested as part of the arrest warrant issued against him. Four other former ministers and elected deputies accompanied him in his flight, and three other elected deputies, including the head of the ERC list and former Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, are in preventive detention.
If they want to save their majority, the easiest way for the separatists would be to ask those who are unable to occupy their seat to give it up to the next candidates on the lists. Unless they prefer to seek confrontation with the Spanish authorities, indignant that the leader of the majority is prevented from running for the nomination. The arrival, against all odds, of Puigdemont's list ahead of that of Junqueras, makes it even more difficult to explain his possible renunciation.
Before the election, ERC candidate Ernest Maragall told Le Figaro that if the separatists won the majority of seats, but remained below 50% of the vote, the unilateral strategy should be put to sleep and dialogue with Madrid promoted. But it is today Puigdemont who takes over the head of the secessionist bloc. More radical than certain sectors of his party, a long-time separatist, he has multiplied in Brussels the one-upmanship against the Spanish government, accused of "Franco", and the European institutions, accused of complicity.
In Madrid, the blow is hard, and the defeat is triple
In Madrid, the blow is hard, and the defeat is triple. First of all, Rajoy misses his objective of returning separatism to the opposition. His formation, then, is returned to the last place in the Catalan Parliament and loses 7 of the 11 seats won in 2015. The winner of the elections, finally, is his biggest rival on the national political spectrum: Ciudadanos, who openly hunts on the PP lands.
Rajoy had announced an expiry date for measures taken under Article 155 of the Constitution, which allows control of a rebel region and which had never been used. He intended to deactivate the decrees once a regional government takes office.
We are still far from it. The Parliament has until January 23 to constitute itself and elect the President of the Chamber. This will be the first opportunity to see if the separatist bloc is capable of overcoming legal obstacles and transforming arithmetic into an effective majority. The President of Parliament will then have ten days to propose a candidate for the nomination to the Chamber.
The 82% of voters who took part in the ballot, a historic rate, had to judge the balance sheet of a secessionist majority which pushed the conflict with Spain to its ultimate consequences: the organization of an illegal referendum on October 1 and then the unilateral declaration of independence not followed by effects on the 27th; they renewed their confidence in him. The "return to normal" promised by the formations hostile to secession is postponed sine die.
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Source: © Elections in Catalonia: the independence shock