Sep 28 2015

A bitter victory for Catalan pro-independence nationalists

By Jose Javier Olivas

untitledThis time the polls got it right. The nationalist pro-independence coalition Junts pel Sí (‘Together for Yes’) won the elections. But arguably this has been a bitter victory. Their 62 seats are insufficient to rule the Generalitat and less than the sum of the seats obtained by CiU (50) and ERC (21) in 2012. Junts pel Sí needs the support of the other secessionist party, CUP (‘Popular Unity Candidacy’), to form a government. However, CUP’s leader, Antonio Baños, has already stated that they won’t vote Artur Mas for President. CUP will also likely request from Junts pel Sí to ignore Spanish and European law and make at some point a unilateral declaration of independence if a referendum is not agreed or organised soon. These two conditions will make the negotiations for the next government difficult. New anticipated Catalan regional elections are the likely scenario after the Spanish national elections.

Secondly, the pro-independence parties claimed that these elections were a ‘de facto referendum’ on the independence of Catalonia. They have demonstrated great strength but have fell short of the majority of the votes. Together, Junts pel Sí and CUP, have obtained more than 1.9 million votes but ‘only’ 47.9% of the total votes (37% of the electoral census). These results should push the Spanish government to address seriously the ‘Catalan problem’, but at the same time clearly delegitimize a potential unilateral declaration of independence.

Cat Sí que es Pot (11 seats), PP (11) and UDC (0) have been the main losers of the elections. The poor results of the left-wing coalition Cat Sí que es Pot are very bad news for Podemos and Pablo Iglesias, who was heavily invested in the campaign. This can be interpreted as a sign that Podemos does not seem to possess the momentum to overtake PSOE as the main left-wing party in Spain.

On the other hand, the centrist Ciudadanos (25 seats, 9 in 2012 ) emerges as a clear winner from these elections. Ciudadanos will lead the opposition to the next nationalist government in Catalonia. But most importantly, these good results reinforce the credibility of Albert Rivera and Ciudadanos as alternative to PP and PSOE in the upcoming general elections.

These elections have confirmed that Catalonia is a deeply divided society. Unilateral solutions, even when they seek to impose the ‘will of the majority’, are unlikely to deliver satisfactory results in the long run. In cleavaged societies such as the Spanish and Catalan ones, the respect of minorities and consensus-based decision-making are usually considered more effective and democratic. After the 27S Catalan elections, more than ever, dialogue and negotiation across these well entrenched camps seem unavoidable.


Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Euro Crisis in the Press blog nor of the London School of Economics


Dr Jose Javier Olivas is an Associate to the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit at the LSE, a co-Editor of LSE Euro Crisis in the Press blog and Director of the online voting and debate platform


Related articles on LSE Euro Crisis in the Press:

Ciudadanos: the ‘tortoise’ that may beat the ‘hare’ in the race for political reform in Spain

Is an independence referendum the appropriate political tool to address the Catalan problem?

The Spanish government has to engage constructively with a rising Catalan secessionist movement

“Spain is Different”: Podemos and 15-M

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6 Responses to A bitter victory for Catalan pro-independence nationalists

  1. Pingback: Why Ciudadanos’ Albert Rivera is the candidate best placed to oust Mariano Rajoy as Spanish PM - European

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  3. Andy Ellis says:

    It is to be hoped, though perhaps not expected, that the result will give Madrid pause for thought. Though falling short of an absolute majority the pro-independence camp have grounds for optimism given that only 26.42% (Cuididanos on 17.92% + PP on 8.5%) of voters supported overtly “unionist”/status quo parties. 12.7% voted for a party supporting a federal solution (PSOE) and 11.4% for parties calling for a “recognised/legal” referendum (2.5% for the UDC and 8.9% of CSQEP).

    In the event Madrid continues to take a high ground position and refuses to negotiate or contemplate an “Edinburgh Agreement” type solution, Catalans will no doubt draw their own conclusions and vote accordingly at the Spanish General Election next year. It doesn’t take many disillusioned UDC and CSQEP voters to push the combined JxSi and CUP over the 50% of the Catalan vote.

    We all hope you are right and that “….dialogue and negotiation across these well entrenched camps seem unavoidable”. The $64,000 question is still what happens if the Spanish government refuses to engage?

    • Basque_Spaniard says:

      Ciudadanos support Federal solution as well as PSOE and not PP. You dont know nothing. Unio and CSPot (Spanish Podemos I mean communists) which both support “referendum” but also support federal solution)
      You dont know nothing about spain´s real politik. The great problem of Catalonia and Basque Country has always been the conservatives.
      Even for the autonomy, the conservatives were the one who voted against.
      What will happenned now?
      Easy, new election, new president, new government, consensus of principal parties for the federal solution, Constitucional reform and a national referendum.
      That will be end the independence feeling? NO, absolutely not, but Catalan and basque nationalists will be satisfied weakening the pro-secessionists parties.
      Spanish conservatives has always blocked the agreements between Labourists and Moderate nationalist when they arrive to the power.

      • Andrew Ellis says:

        You’re right by Basque_Spaniard friend, I don’t know nothing. I do however know that Cuidadanos are an avowedly anti-independence party, so whether they support some form of federalism is neither here nor there. Rivera has his sights set on Madrid, not Barcelona.

        If there was any real appetite for a federal solution, people would have voted for parties supporting it: the numbers don’t lie, they didn’t do so. Trying to weaken pro-independence feeling by offering “real” federalism might work, but it is heavily dependant on Catalans (or for that matter Basques or Scots) believing a coherent plan to introduce it can be drawn up, and even more importantly enacted. Neither of these seems likely in the case of Spain.

        The far right will of course try to scupper any moves towards progress; that’s what conservatives do; the hint is in the name. Given the poor result for the PP however, I wouldn’t bet on them being able to get their way. The upcoming General Election should be interesting.

        • Basque_Spaniard says:

          Rivera and the political party of Ciudadanos is a breakdown of labour party in catalonia.
          In catalonia, as in the basque country, the spanish labour party was the Second most voted party in that region due to its support for the autonomy of the basque and favourable to advance to the federalist but their principal political partners were different.
          In basque country, the labour party in majority of the times has agreed with Basque nationalist party and in the minor time with the conservatives (only when nationalist chose the soberanist way).
          In catalonia, the labour party agreed with left-wing radical nationalist party provocking problems in their own party, becoming more nationalist than moderate catalan nationalist. So in that moment Ciudadanos rised as a new party. Little by little was rising becoming the best non-nationalist supported party while the conservatives with centralised moral lost.
          On the other hand, in Basque Country, the experiment of Ciudadanos and UpyD (the both liberal parties) has failed. Due to atitude of the labour party and recently to the basque nationalist party being a consensus policy. Leaving radical nationalist and conservative party as isolated parties in the basque parliament. However, the spanish communists has site due to economical policy and their federal strong support united with the self-determination.
          Nowadays, Ciudadanos has no choice in Basque country for not supporting “the tax autonomy”, becoming a really basque minority achieving as maximum 1 seat.
          Remember, that the spanish constitution was made by 3 liberals, 1 labour, 1 communist, 1 conservative and 1 Catalan leader (according to the spanish election result), however, in the support of creation of autonomies (middle way between centralism and federalism) was rejected by conservatives.
          The conservatives embraced the liberalism in order to be a big party and be competitive with labour party but nowadays, is losing support due to the Ciudadanos upstart.
          The ciudadanos party its a party populated with labourists and liberals. Wanting to created the liberal style party like in the UK liberal-democratic.
          Their principal economists are Luis Garicano knowing in London and Manuel Conthe an ex-labour economy minister.

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