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Party review – Ciudadanos, the anti-Catalan nationalism party

Albert Rivera leads this party, which ran for the first time in the last elections and got 3 seats in the Catalan Parliament. Polls predict they could repeat these results or increase by 1 seat. Ciudadanos (meaning “Citizens”) defends the use of the Spanish language, stating that it is in danger in Catalonia. The party was born as a reaction to the debate on the Catalan Statute of Autonomy’s reform.

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19 November 2010 10:56 PM

by

ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Barcelona (ACN).- Ciudadanos\u2019 ideology is mainly against Catalan Nationalism. Their stance is against nationalism in general, but their stance on identity and language issues make them to be seen by many as Spanish Nationalists. Their main political axe is the support of freedom, although their way of expressing it makes them look quite populist. They have a few leading issues they are putting at the forefront of their political speech, such as the support of the Spanish language and the refusal of Catalan Nationalism proposals. In the upcoming elections, they may get the same results or increase by 1 to 2 seats, according to different polls.


Ciudadanos (C\u2019s) is the smallest party represented in the Catalan Parliament. In the last elections, it got 3 seats and 3.03% of votes. As they did not get 5 members in the Catalan Parliament, they could not form their own political group. Therefore, these years their political activity has mainly been to criticise the measures of others. However, when they have to make proposals, they often lack details and use quite general wording, such as in his current electoral programme. That\u2019s the reason why some see them as populist.

In addition, they initially refused to say if they were Left-Wing or Right-Wing. They were only anti-Catalan Nationalist. The party was formed in early 2006, after 15 intellectuals (as they called themselves) made a platform in mid 2005 denouncing some proposals of Catalan Nationalism, in particular the use of the Catalan language in the public sphere. Ciudadanos was born afterwards, for the 2006 Catalan elections. The party was chaired by a very young, unknown person, Albert Rivera, who was 26 years old at the time. They became the surprise of the elections, getting 3 seats for the Barcelona province. They got votes from people who used to vote for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and the Conservative People\u2019s Party (PPC).

Nowadays, Ciudadanos officially  claims to be Liberal Centre Left-Wing, which they decided in mid-2007. The defence of individual freedom is above all their main proposal. Individual freedom above all could be considered quite Right-Wing, but they also defend the Welfare State, although they do not like state intervention in public life. However, what defines Ciudadanos most is their anti-Catalan Nationalism stances.

Ciudadanos states that the Spanish language is in danger in Catalonia. Most public studies as well as historical facts such as Franco\u2019s dictatorship have shown the contrary. Nevertheless, Ciudadanos bases this in the use of the Catalan language as the vehicle language in schools.

In Catalan schools, children are mainly taught in Catalan. The exception to this is the Spanish language lessons, which are taught in Spanish. The reason for this is that in many neighbourhoods in Catalonia with a population from outside Catalonia, Catalan is almost not spoken at all. In fact, if kids did not learn Catalan in school they would not be able to speak Catalan, as they might no speak at home. This would represent an obstacle for equal opportunities when these kids will have to join labour market. In fact, the Catalan school model aims to not create separate language communities, ensuring that everybody would be able to speak Catalan. And what about speaking Spanish? Everybody speaks Spanish, as the presence of the Spanish language is massive on the streets and in the media, and is also taught in schools. The Catalan school model has been exemplified by the European Commission and UNESCO, compared to countries such as Belgium where the language communities are completely separated. A prove of the success is that the results of Catalan students in the final high school exam on Spanish language are generally above the Spanish average.

Ciudadanos wants parents to be able to choose if they want their children to go to a Spanish-only school. They claim to defend bilingualism, but in practice they defend a prevalence of the Spanish language over the Catalan language. Ciudadanos also defends the Spanish Constitution and say that it should not be changed. These stances make them look like Spanish Nationalists, despite the fact that they claim to refuse all nationalisms.

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  • Albert Rivera and the number 2 for Barcelona, Carmen de Rivera (by ACN)

  • Albert Rivera and the number 2 for Barcelona, Carmen de Rivera (by ACN)
Albert Rivera presents Ciudadanos, the party he chairs