Monday, September 28, 2015

Catalan elections: 48% for independence, 39% against

Catalans celebrate the independentist victory (La Vanguardia)
Yesterday the Catalan People had the opportunity to vote on national independence, via regular elections, issuing a clear mandate to go ahead with the process. The total votes for independentist options did not reach 50% but those voting for unionist options are less than 40%.

Crucially 12% of the votes went to options that did not have a clear stand on the independence issue, notably Catalyunya si que es Pot (ICV+Podemos+independents), although the Spanish media (all of them militantly unionist) try to count them in the "no" fraction in a futile exercise to manipulate the actual will of the sovereign Catalan People.

In case there is any doubt, the lead candidate by Catalunya Sí que es Pot, Lluis Rabell, declared unambiguously for all who want to hear that his list gathered independentists and federalists and that by no means their fraction of the vote can be considered as opposed to Catalan independence, but rather expressing the will of people who think that there are more important matters such as human and social rights.

The results of the plebiscitary elections are (by blocs):

seats votes %
YES 72 1,952,482 47.80
NO 52 1,599,527 39.16
other 11 512,910 12.56

In detail (source: La Vanguardia):


seats votes %
JxSí 62 1,616,962 39.57
C's 25 732,147 17.91
PSC 16 520,022 12.72
Cat.Sí que es Pot 11 364,823 8.93
PP 11 347,358 8.50
CUP 10 335,520 8.21
Unió 0 102,594 2.51
PACMA 0 29,685 0.73
Recortes Cero 0 14,324 0.35
Guanyem 0 1,158 0.03 0 326 0.01

The result is very clear, even if it could be even more clear if a legally binding referendum was held, something that both Spain and its political brands in Catalonia oppose by all means, knowing that they would lose.  

What lays ahead?

An immediate issue is who will lead the new government. Junts pel Sí has failed to muster a majority of seats and needs a backer. This one can only be the rising star: the Nationalist Left list CUP (Popular Unity List). The CUP has made clear that they will not support Artur Mas nor another conservative government in any case and that may result in a more left-leaning government, with utterly clean hands on issues of corruption, repression and social policies, made up of mostly independents. The very nature of the JxSí list, made up largely of independents may facilitate this, although who exactly will be the new President (Romeva, Junqueras) is an open issue. 

The main and quite important difference between JxSí an the CUP is social policies, although human rights have also been an issue with the previous government, way too ready to use police brutality. However they fully agree on going ahead with an independence schedule within the next couple of years. In fact the CUP was close to join the JxSí list and only the role given to the previous government's politicians (Mas, Junqueras) blocked the agreement. 

My first impression is that there will be agreement and that an independentist government dead set to implement the roadmap to independence will be formed in the next few weeks, unless Spain intervenes militarily, what is certainly a possibility. That should end in an independent Catalonia in a couple of years... or a military dictatorship imposed by Spain. 

It's hard to imagine how these results can produce any other scenario but we will see in due time. 

The independence camp (48%)

The clear winner in the independentist camp is the Popular Unity List (CUP), which has more than tripled their previous results. They have attracted voters from the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), discontent with their right-leaning coalition with Artur Mas (CDC), but maybe more importantly they have attracted much of the leftist vote that in other elections went to not explicitly independentist Left options such as Iniciativa (ICV) or the popular lists that performed so well in the municipal elections, such as Barcelona en Comú of Ada Colau. The ambiguity on the national issue of the other Left list, Catalunya Sí que es Pot (ICV + Podemos + independents), has clearly played in favor of the CUP, which in any case already showed a clear growth and consolidation in all Catalonia. 

Instead Junts pel Sí has not even replicated the previous results of its constituent parties (CDC and ERC, although most candidates are actually independents, coming from socio-political movements for independence). However it has performed relatively well, no doubt owing to the exceptional nature of the list and the national self-determination nature of this vote. 

The unionist camp (39%)

The unionist parties have performed rather well as a whole, no doubt owing to the massive participation, again owing to the plebiscite nature of the election. The clear winner is Ciutadans (C's), originally a xenophobic and extremist unionist party that has however dramatically moderated its discourse on these matters and is instead being presented as the clean option of the Right in order to rally a much larger fraction of the vote, in Catalonia as in Spain. The yuppies' party has more than doubled its previous results and become the main unionist reference in Catalonia. It must be said that they were the only party running with a woman, Inés Arrimadas, as list head (although it is clear in group photos that all other leaders are men) and that in general they are projecting a positive image of youthful, reformist and anti-corruption "new conservatism" that clearly works to some extent.

The PSC-PSOE (pseudo-socialists, Blairites or liberals), after purging its nationalist fraction, has managed to survive in half-decent shape, with clear losses but much less than forecast. Much of this is no doubt owed to the unsuspected dancer qualities of their leader, Miquel Iceta, which went viral. Also from Madrid, the state leader Pedro Sánchez is behaving looking ahead to the general elections (to be held in a couple of months or so) as the true President, while the conservative leader Mariano Rajoy is instead showing an almost total leadership collapse, owing both to the corruption scandals that have revealed his party as a mafia and his own rather shy or near-autistic personality, which combined to the Galician psychological trait of not speaking clear for fear of repercussions, make him a very weak leader.

Adding to all that, the pretense of hard-handed firmness that they wanted to project has not worked and they have collected their worst ever result. 

The other camp (13%)

There were two notable options in the other camp. The least unsuccessful one has been Catalunya Sí que es Pot (Catalonia Can Indeed), which aimed to replicate the municipal success of ample Left platforms, detaching themselves from the independence debate and trying to put forward other issues such as the social emergency, which is very dramatic in Catalonia, largely owing to Mas' conservative policies but also to their lack of a separate fiscality, what makes the country dependent on Spain's good will on financial matters, good will that is invariably nowhere to be seen. 

Many of their potential voters therefore went to the CUP, or even to Junts pel Sí, being both options much more clear on the central issue of Catalonia's national self-rule. 

In any case the list can't be at all considered part of the "no" camp: both constituent political parties, the historical Iniciativa per Catalunya - Les Verts (ICV) and the newcomer Podemos include people who are in favor and against independence (but usually for much greater self-rule) but who consider that other issues are prioritary instead. Their official stand is for self-determination (unlike those in the "no" camp) and in any case for a Federal Republic, and not at all the centralist state with minor concessions that exists now. 

The other remarkable option is Unió, former minor associates with Artur Mas' Convergencia for many years, whose stand on the national issue is rather federalist as well, with recognition of the right of self-determination. On the event of an independence-focused election they decided to try to collect the third option votes but failed to get any representation whatsoever and a meagre 2.5% of the vote.

Among the rest of the undefined options the Animal Rights' platform PACMA is the most notable one. They are clearly very far from getting any representation but they are again in favor of self-determination for all animals, human or not. 

Provincial variation

The only province with some marked division is Barcelona (85 seats). In the metropolitan province, the secessionists got 39 seats, while the unionists gathered 37, the other 9 going to CSP. 

In Tarragona province (18 seats), the independentists won a clear majority of 10 delegates, while the unionists added up to 7 and CSP got just one. 

In Lleida (15 seats), the "yes" camp got 11 delegates, while unionists got 4 and CSP none.

In Girona (17 seats) the independentists obtained 12 seats, the unionists 4 and CSP the remaining one. 

Constituent Parliament

It is clear to me that the current parliament has a strong mandate to be the Constituent Assembly of an independent Catalonia. And I have little doubt that they will go ahead with the secessionist process, even if the particulars of government formation are still unclear.

However it is clear that Spain will react hard-handedly to any attempt at secession, which is technically "illegal". But how exactly they will manage the separatist will of a nation of 7.5 million people (some 16% of all of Spain's citizens) is yet to be seen. 

The Basque Country lacking

Here in the Basque Country things are moving slow however. While the Basque Nationalist Left (EH Bildu) clearly sees the Catalan movement towards independence as a window of opportunity and would like to join them in the process of secession from the Spanish jail of nations, they are alone on this will. While clearly the Basque Nationalist Left is much larger than the CUP relative to population, being now the largest all-Basque political option, it faces reluctant allies in each territory. 

In the Western Basque Country, the so-called Basque Nationalist Party is clearly spousing nowadays an anti-independence discourse with a federalist tinge. Rather than being the Basque version of Junts pel Sí, they are like the vanishing Unió party... but much much stronger in voter support. Unless voter attitudes change, there is no possibility of pushing ahead with an independence project without them. 

In Navarre the situation is even more complicated, owing to the strength of the unionist camp, which has forced a quadruple coalition between Nationalists and left-leaning Federalists in order to clean up the Old Kingdom from corruption, intolerance and cronyism. 

In the North (under French rule) the advance of the Basque Nationalist camp is still being consolidated after many decades or even centuries of relative absence. The small size and lack of any sort of self-rule of the Northern Basque Country make things even more complicated. 

Critically, if Catalans manage to get ahead with their independence project and we Basques do not, we will be in an even weaker position, without almost any allies in the reduced Spain. That would be very bad, no doubt.


  1. Al pobre Iceta le has cambiado el nombre, porque se llama Miquel.


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