Covid-19 could put Catalan election of February 14 at risk
Parties ask for consensus in case of need to postpone vote
Covid-19 could have an impact on Catalonia's early election, due to be held on February 14, 2021, following September's court ruling that barred President Quim Torra from office.
Indeed, some parties are speculating about a need to postpone them, as happened with Basque and Galician elections earlier this year. Originally set for April 4, 2020, they eventually took place on July 12, 2020.
The pandemic's second wave has raised doubts over whether the Catalan election will be able to take place as normal.
The cabinet is preparing a plan to hold the vote with safety measures, which will raise the cost of organizing them from the typical €12.5 million to €20 million.
6pm to 8pm time slot for Covid positives
A government report in late October proposed setting aside specific spaces and queues in polling stations for those with Covid-19 or self-isolating – unlike previous regional elections in Spain, Catalonia wants to avoid removing the right to vote from anyone, even for those who have tested positive.
If the proposed plan goes ahead, those affected by the disease would have a specific time slot to vote: from 6pm to 8pm.
The paper also recommends that citizens vote by post – something that any voter in Catalonia can do without the need for a specific reason. Requests for postal votes must be made at least two weeks before the election.
The foreign and institutional relations minister Jordi Solé said that they will request that postal vote applications can be made online, without the need to go to a post office – postal workers from the state-owned Correos mail service would collect the votes.
The authorities have not officially questioned the date of the vote – which, in fact, still has to be called, as the two-month period for parliament to replace Quim Torra has not yet passed, but no alternative is expected to be put forward.
Parties on need of a delay
Yet, several parties are already speculating on the matter, including the People's Party, which is confident that the vote will be delayed. "I am sure. I do not think that the required health conditions to hold an election will be met," its president, Alejandro Fernández, said on Saturday.
He also said that the governing Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) will also do its utmost to postpone them – yet, Carles Puigdemont's party is finalizing the internal vote to decide its candidates this week. PDeCAT, the party JxCat split from, elected its candidate on Monday, Àngels Chacon, former business minister.
On Friday, the unionist Ciudadanos party requested that a decision on any potential delay be made together with Spain's electoral board and the Spanish government.
As for the other governing party, ERC, their leader Oriol Junqueras, said on Monday that "ther will probably be a broad consensus to postpone them for some weeks, waiting until the data on infections is in a better condition."
The Socialist leader, Miquel Iceta, urged the government on Monday to "make sure" the conditions to hold the vote are appropriate, so that they are "totally safe."
Also speaking on Monday, Catalunya en Comú – Podem's head, Jéssica Albiach, said it was too soon to speculate. "If they had to be held in two weeks, we would understand, but we still have three and a half months to enforce all the measures needed to make them happen."