Social and democratic issues were completely overshadowed by the yes/no polarisation of the Catalan independence debate in the recent elections. Now, the Catalan political system is in deadlock until Catalonia and a Spanish government that is more open to political dialogue on the matter can arrive at a democratic solution.
I will try to make a few comments on the election results of 27 September as well as on our political platform called Catalunya Sí Que Es Pot (which roughly translates as Catalonia, Yes We Can), a coalition of alternative and ecologist left-wing and social movements comprised of Podemos (We can), ICV (Initiative for Catalonia), EQUO and EUiA (United and Alternative Left, a member of the European Left Party). I will also reflect on what could happen in the general elections on 20 December.
The pro-independence parties have now gained more seats (but not votes) in the elections as they tried to turn the elections into a plebiscite on Catalan independence. Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes), a coalition of pro-independence conservatives from CDC (Democratic Convergence of Catalonia) and pro-independence left-wingers from ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), won 39.54% of the votes, while CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy, a pro-independence and anti-capitalist party) won 8.2% of the votes. This added up to 47.74% of the votes in favour of independence but translated to 53.33% of the seats due to the territorial disproportionality of Catalonia’s current electoral law. The 72 elected pro-independence deputies (62 from Junts pel Sí and 10 from CUP) are enough to form a government, but clearly not enough to implement any changes of a constitutional nature, and less still to unilaterally declare Catalan independence.
On the other side of the coin in the nationalism debate, another party emerged victorious from these elections – Ciutadans (Citizens, a new conservative party whose top priority is defending a united Spain). Ciutadans won more than 734,000 votes and 25 seats and are the second strongest party in the Catalan Parliament, with a strong presence in the cities of Barcelona and Tarragona.
This extreme polarisation, which is particularly strong among the working classes, is very worrying. The irresponsible actions of Artur Mas and Mariano Rajoy have led to the two sides opposing each other on a number of national projects with strong feelings surrounding national identity, making dialogue difficult both within Catalonia and between Catalonia and Spain.
The outcome for Catalunya Sí Que Es Pot in this election was not what we had anticipated; it is now the fourth biggest political party in Parliament with 11 seats, having won 366,494 votes (or 8.94%). This is 6,000 more votes than were won in 2012, but 0.96% less votes in terms of percentage. An initial analysis of this disappointing outcome has given rise to some complex data that has multiple implications. However, the essential fact is that Catalunya Sí Es Pot could not avoid discussing this debate in polarised terms. Our electoral campaign focused on promoting a society with more social rights, a new democratic system and a political and democratic solution for Catalonia, which would involve holding a referendum in agreement with the Spanish government like the one recently held in Scotland, as well as trying to negotiate a new deal between Catalonia and Spain. However, the nationalistic yes/no polarisation of the independence debate was so strong that it completely overshadowed the referendum and other political discussions regarding social rights, the fight against corruption and austerity policies.
The polarisation of the Catalan political system will end in failure and frustration for the population, as neither side has enough strength to win on its own. When it does fail, a political programme such as that proposed by Catalunya Sí Que Es Pot, based around dialogue, reconciliation and democracy rather than identity struggles, will offer a solution: an amicable federal relationship between Catalonia and Spain as well as more social rights and a new democratic system. This is the programme that we will push for at the general elections to be held on 20 December in order to oust the government of Mariano Rajoy.
The Catalan Republic, the national project of EUiA
Video with English subtitles