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Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party ERC wins elections for the first time

Parties supporting self-determination have won the European Parliament elections in Catalonia by a clear margin; elections which have seen turnout increase from 36.9% in 2009 to 47.4% this time around, spurred by the independence debate. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) obtained 23.7% of the votes, whereas in 2009 it secured only 9.2%. The Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU), which has been in government in Catalonia since 2010, has more or less kept the same percentage of the vote, going from 22.4% to 21.9%, despite austerity measures adopted in the past few years. Support for Spain's two main parties, the People's Party (PP) – currently in government – and the Socialists (PSOE), has plummeted in Catalonia.  The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), part of the PSOE, retained only a third of its 2009 share of the vote, going from 36% to 14.3%. The PP now becomes the 5th most popular party, decreasing from 18% of the vote to 9.8%. Meanwhile, the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), which also supports self-determination, increased its percentage of the vote from 6% to 10.3%. The anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C's) also polled well, increasing its share of the vote from 0.3% to 6.3%.

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26 May 2014 01:37 AM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Catalans are sending a message to Europe. Parties supporting self-determination have won the 2014 European Parliament elections in Catalonia by a clear margin, elections which have also seen turnout increase from 36.9% in 2009 to 47.4%, spurred by the independence debate. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) obtained some 23.7% of the vote, whereas in 2009 it had 9.2%. The Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU), which has been in government in Catalonia since 2010, has almost kept the same percentage of the vote it achieved in 2009, dropping only slightly from 22.4% to 21.9%, despite the austerity measures it has adopted in the past few years. Support for Spain's two main parties, the People's Party (PP) – currently in government in Spain – and the Socialists (PSOE), has plummeted in Catalonia.  The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), part of the PSOE, obtained about a third of its 2009 share of the vote, falling from 36% to 14.3%. The PP now becomes the 5th most popular party in Catalonia, with its share of the vote decreasing from 18% to 9.8%. Meanwhile, support for the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), which also supports self-determination, has increased from 6% to 10.3%. The anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C's) also polled well, going from 0.3% to 6.3% of the vote. The recently-created alternative left platform formed by citizens, Podemos, which ran in the whole of Spain, obtained 4.7% of the votes cast in Catalonia. Finally, the Spanish nationalist UPyD, which achieved significantly increased results in Spain, obtained only 1.3% of the vote in Catalonia; it had 0.8% in the last elections. These results mean that Catalonia's self-determination continues to move forward, as was stressed by President of the Catalan Government and CiU leader, Artur Mas. At the same time, the ERC's President, Oriol Junqueras, guaranteed "institutional stability" in Catalonia, since it is "essential" for the self-determination process to succeed.


The People's Party wins at Spanish and European level

At Spanish level, the PP won the elections but lost significant support, going from 42% to just over 26% of the vote. The PP retained 16 MEPs, 8 fewer than in 2009. The PSOE got 23% and 14 seats, losing 6  of the seats it won 5 years ago. The PP and PSOE lost more than 5 million votes in Spain overall and went from holding a combined total of 80% of all the votes in Spain to holding 49%. For this reason, many in Spain are already saying that bi-partisanship has ended. The Plural Left coalition (Izquierda Plural), with Izquierda Unida (IU) and the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), obtained 10% of the vote, jumping from 2 to 6 MEPs. As well as this, the alternative left platform formed by individual citizens against austerity measures called Podemos ran for the first time and won 5 seats in the European Parliament, obtaining 7.96% of the votes cast. The Spanish nationalist and populist party UPyD significantly increased its support and goes from 1 to 4 MEPs, after obtaining 6.49% of the vote. The coalition of moderate and centre-right Catalan and Basque nationalists, CEU, which is led by the Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU), kept its 3 MEPs, garnering 5.44% of the vote. The coalition led by the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) obtained 4.02% of the vote in Spain, winning 2 European seats. The anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C's) obtained 3.16% of the vote in Spain and 2 MEPs. The left-wing Basque and Galician nationalists’ coalition Los Pueblos Deciden (LPD) obtained 2.07% and 1 MEP. Similarly, the left-wing and greens coalition La Primavera Europea won 1.91% of the vote and 1 MEP seat. Finally, VOX, the Spanish nationalists with ties to the far-right and led by former Vice President of the European Parliament and PP Member, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, got only 1.56% of the vote and did not win a single seat.

At European level, according to the vote count available when this article was written, the People's Party won the elections, although it lost some 59 seats. The EPP will hold 212 seats and therefore their leader, Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker, will become the next President of the European Commission if he manages to obtain the necessary parliamentary support. The Social-Democrats also lost support but retain 185 seats in the new Parliament. The Liberal Group got 71 MEPS elected and the Greens 55. The Alternative Left won 45 seats. The European Conservatives and Reformists, which includes the UK Tories, got 40 MEPs elected. The group Libertas formed by Euro-sceptic parties such as the UKIP obtained 36 seats. Finally, there are 107 MEPs not linked to any of the large European political families. Among these, there are extreme-right MEPs, including a neo-Nazi from Germany. The extreme-right Front National won the elections in France, Euro-sceptic UKIP won in the UK, extreme-right won in Denmark and it particularly increased its support in The Netherlands and Hungary.

A higher turnout in Catalonia that sends a message

These elections to the European Parliament are a milestone in the political landscape of both Spain and Catalonia; for the downfall of the PP and the PSOE, but also for the victory of self-determination parties in Catalonia. In addition, some 47.4% of Catalans cast their vote, an increase of more than 10 percentage points (up from 36.94% in 2009). Taken in its entirety, turnout in Spain increased by only one percentage point, from 44.5% in 2009 to 45.6%; an increase sustained by the sharp rise in the number of voters in Catalonia. In fact, in the rest of Spain, turnout decreased in almost all regions, with only a few exceptions. Turnout also stagnated at EU level, going from 43% in 2009 to 43.1% in the newest elections. Parties and civil society organisations supporting self-determination asked Catalan citizens to vote in these elections in order to send a message to the world: Catalans want to hold an independence vote and to remain within the EU. In a context where abstention, Euro-scepticism, populism and extreme-right parties have increased throughout Europe, the victory of pro-EU, democratic and moderate forces in Catalonia, with a much higher turnout than previously was the case, should be taken into account by the European institutions. In fact, as self-determination parties stressed during the campaign, the EU faces a great challenge in Catalonia's democratic call to hold an independence vote and remain within the Union should it no longer be a part of Spain. Catalonia's self-determination process speaks to the European project’s founding values of peace, democracy, prosperity, the lifting of borders and the building of a Europe of citizens.

The ERC goes from 9.2% to 23.7% of the vote in Catalonia

For the first time in the 37 years of democracy following the end of Franco's dictatorship, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), has won an election. It has obtained almost 1 out of every 4 votes cast in Catalonia, obtaining a 23.7% share of the vote, more than doubling the 9.2% share it achieved in 2009. It will also double its number of Members of the European Parliament, which will go from 1 to 2 for the upcoming term. This time around, the ERC was running in coalition with Nova Esquerra Catalana (NEC), a recently-created, small Social-Democrat party founded by Ernest Maragall, who quit the PSC because he felt it was not supporting self-determination in a clear way. Now, Maragall and the person topping the ERC's list, Josep-Maria Terricabras, will become new MEPs. In 2009, the ERC ran in a wider coalition, which was headed by a member of this party, Oriol Junqueras, whom now chairs the ERC and has become one of Catalonia's most popular politicians. Junqueras was an MEP for only two-and-a-half years, since he shared the seat with the second person in the coalition, a representative from the Basque party Aralar.

The ERC's President emphasised that their victory will serve the commitment to hold an independence vote in Catalonia on the 9th of November next, as agreed by a two-thirds majority of the Catalan Parliament in December 2013. However, at the same time, Junqueras "guaranteed" the "institutional stability" in Catalonia despite having won, not aiming to challenge the governing CiU, with whom they share a parliamentary stability agreement. Junqueras underlined that this "institutional stability" is essential for the self-determination process to succeed. The ERC's President also stressed that this victory represents another step towards Catalonia's independence. Terricabras, who will sit in the European Parliament, highlighted that Catalonia's turnout was higher than that of Spain overall.

The CiU resists and obtains a greater absolute number of voters

The Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU), which brings together Liberals (CDC) and Christian-Democrats (UDC), has resisted and obtained a percentage of the vote similar to that of 5 years ago, despite having been in charge of the Catalan Government for the past 4 years and having implemented important budget cuts. In fact, in absolute terms, CiU obtained 100,000 more votes this Sunday than in 2009. However, it went from 22.4% in 2009 to 21.9% in 2014 due to a higher turnout. The CiU, which was running with the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), obtained 3 MEPs. The second position in the list was for a PNV member, but the CiU holds the first and third positions. Therefore, the Liberal Ramon Tremosa and the Christian-Democrat Francesc Gambús will become MEPs in the next term.

The Catalan President and leader of the CiU, Artur Mas, stated that the results of the European elections in Catalonia "strengthen" the self-determination process. Mas was particularly proud of the CiU having "resisted" in these elections, despite being the party "dealing with all the problems" since it took over the Catalan Government in 2011. Mas was referring to the budget cuts that the Executive has implemented in order to reduce the public deficit and the problems linked to the lack of liquidity. For this reason, he highlighted that the CiU had increased its support by 100,000 additional voters as compared to 2009, although it has been overtaken by the ERC. Furthermore, he stated that "taking into account the results, everything goes on", referring to the self-determination process. "Not a step backwards", he said.

Support for the PSC plummets from 36% to 14.3%

The Catalan Socialists, which in Catalonia had won almost all of the European elections in the past, have now been pushed into third position, having lost more than half of their share of the vote. Support for the PSC has plummeted in comparison with past elections, particularly because it decided to oppose independence and obey the PSOE's instructions and also refused to support specific self-determination initiatives despite the party running in the last Catalan elections on the promise that it would support the right of Catalan citizens to decide on their collective future. The PSC's poor result has also brought about a drop in support for the PSOE, since Catalonia has traditionally been a large vote earner for the Socialists. In the whole of Spain, the PSOE/PSC obtained 14 MEPs, 6 fewer than in 2009 and Catalan Javi López will sit in Strasbourg. However, the PSC's second person on the PSOE list will be not be in the Euro-Chamber since she placed fifteenth.

The Secretary General of the PSC, Pere Navarro, admitted that the party did not obtain a positive result. However, he chose to put the CiU in the spotlight, saying that "these are the second plebiscitary elections lost" by the Catalan President, Artur Mas. Navarro said that the CiU had presented these elections as a plebiscite on support for Mas, as it had done in November 2012. Back then, the CiU lost 12 MPs, going from 62 to 50 seats, although it did win the elections, since the second party, the ERC, obtained 21 seats and the PSC dropped to 20 MPs. Navarro compared this Sunday's 14.3% result with that of 2012. For this reason he said they had "to better explain their political project".

The ICV-EUiA becomes the 4th most popular party with 10.3% of the vote

The Green and former Socialist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), which ran at Spanish level with Izquierda Unida, increased its support from 6% to 10.3% of the vote. The ICV-EUiA strongly supports Catalonia's right to self-determination and its European candidate to chair the European Commission, the German Green Ska Keller, has openly supported Catalonia's right to self-determination and stated that, in case of independence, she would support Catalonia to become an EU Member State from the first day of its independence. The ICV-EUiA is to get 1 MEP, with Ernest Urtasun replacing Raül Romeva, who was one of the most active MEPs during the last 10 years. In the whole of Spain, their coalition obtained 6 MEPs, 4 more than in 2009.

The ICV-EUiA candidate Ernest Urtasun highlighted that left-wing parties had won the European elections in Catalonia. In addition, the ICV General Co-ordinator, Joan Herrera, emphasised that there will be "a block" with more than 100 MEPs in Strasbourg that are against the austerity measures approved so far and who will work towards changing them. In this vein, Herrera asked the ERC to honour its Social-Democrat side and not support the CiU's budget cuts in exchange for moving forward Catalonia's self-determination process, which the ICV-EUiA also supports. Herrera also emphasised that the ICV-EUiA represents a "double vote": against the Troika and for Catalonia's right to self-determination.

The PP loses almost half of its support in Catalonia

The People's Party, which is totally opposed to Catalan self-determination and is currently in government in Spain, went from 18% to 9.8% of the vote. The only Catalan MEP from the PP, Santiago Fisas, has been re-elected and will therefore retain his seat. At Spanish level, the PP has lost 8 MEPs, dropping from 24 seats to 16, and from 42% to 26% of the votes cast. Citizens have punished the PP for the budget cuts and the austerity measures passed, most of which had not been included in its 2011 electoral programme.

The leader of the PP in Catalonia, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, asked the Catalan President "to resign or reconsider" organising a self-determination vote, since she said he had lost the elections. Sánchez-Camacho insisted that Mas did not have the support of the majority of Catalans and therefore should stop the self-determination process and "come back to the central plane". All of the polls indicate that between 75% and 80% of all Catalans want a self-determination vote to be held. Sánchez-Camacho also justified the PP's loss of support in Catalonia and in the rest of Spain by their taking of "tough decisions" while running the Spanish Government. They also complained about "the psychological and physical violence" they said they had suffered during this campaign due to the self-determination debate in Catalonia.

The C's to sit in the European Parliament for the first time with 2 MEPs

The anti-Catalan nationalist and populist party Ciutadans (C's) will sit in the European Parliament for the first time ever. They obtained 6.3% of the vote in Catalonia, much more than the 0.3% they obtained in 2009. In the whole of Spain, the C's got 3.16% of the votes cast and obtained 2 MEPs. Therefore, Javier Nart and Juan Carlos Girauta will sit in the Euro-chamber.

The main candidates from the C's and the party leadership followed the results from Madrid, despite the party being based in Catalonia, where it obtained most of its votes. However, the C’s 'number 2' and Secretary General of the party, Matías Alonso, held  a press conference in which he stressed that the results obtained "had not been a miracle". Alonso said the results were "the fruit of the effort and work of all party members" going to "deep Catalonia or the Comanche territory" to look for votes, a disrespectful way to refer to the high levels of support for independence which exist in rural Catalonia.

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  • The Catalan President and CiU's leader, Artur Mas (by ACN)

  • Matías Alonso assessing the results of C's (by ACN)

  • The Secretary General of the PSC, Pere Navarro, accepting the party's bad results (by ACN)

  • ICV-EUiA assessing their results (by ACN)

  • Maragall (left) and Terricabras (right) will be the ERC's two new MEPs (by ACN)

  • Alícia Sánchez-Camacho and Santiago Fisas on Sunday evening in Barcelona (by ACN)

  • The Catalan President and CiU's leader, Artur Mas (by ACN)
  • Matías Alonso assessing the results of C's (by ACN)
  • The Secretary General of the PSC, Pere Navarro, accepting the party's bad results (by ACN)
  • ICV-EUiA assessing their results (by ACN)
  • Maragall (left) and Terricabras (right) will be the ERC's two new MEPs (by ACN)
  • Alícia Sánchez-Camacho and Santiago Fisas on Sunday evening in Barcelona (by ACN)