20-D Spanish Elections: Catalonia and the end of the two-party system on the spotlight
This Sunday, more than 35 million Spanish citizens are entitled to elect the 350 MPs in the Spanish Parliament and the 208 members of the Senate. Election Day will take place less than three months after the 27-S Catalan elections, which saw the victory of pro-independence forces – a fact that has definitely focused the electoral campaign and the main parties’ programmes. The 20-D Spanish Elections are also set to be crucial as they may mark the end of the two-party system in Spain comprised of the Conservative People’s Party, PP, and the Spanish Socialist Party, PSOE, which have alternated in the Spanish government since 1982. Two new parties are set to burst into the Spanish Parliament and may have a key role in the post-electoral agreements: anti-Catalan nationalism ‘Ciutadans’ and alternative left ‘Podemos’. They have both shown their force and popular support in the past European, regional and local elections.
Barcelona (CNA).- More than 35 million Spanish citizens are entitled to vote this Sunday in the 20-D General elections, which may mark the end of the two-party system comprised of the Conservative People’s Party, PP, and the Spanish Socialist Party, PSOE, which have alternated in the Spanish government since 1982. For the first time since democracy was restored, two new parties are set to burst into the Spanish Parliament and may have a key role in the post-electoral agreements: anti-Catalan nationalism ‘Ciutadans’ and alternative left ‘Podemos’. They have both shown their force and popular support in the past European, regional and local elections. Besides this, the 20-D elections will also illustrate Spain’s reaction to Catalonia’s push for independence, which was expressed in a majoritarian way less than three months ago in the 27-S Catalan elections. Most of the parties running for the Spanish elections have highlighted their position regarding Catalonia’s aspirations, which have been described by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as “one of the biggest defiances in Spain’s history”.
The consequences of the 27-S
The 27-S Catalan elections showed a majority support for pro-independence forces. Cross-party list ‘Junts Pel Sí’, topped by former MEP Raül Romeva and including President Mas in fourth position, won the elections with almost 40% of votes, obtaining 62 seats. Radical left CUP obtained 10 MPs and became the second force in the Parliament supporting Catalonia’s independence. As ‘Junts Pel Sí’ didn’t get an absolute majority, negotiations with radical left CUP have become crucial. The winning coalition required CUP from the very first step:choosing a President. ‘Junts Pel Sí’ insisted that their candidate was Artur Mas but also admitted that “the responsibility is shared”, directly inviting CUP to design a joint roadmap towards independence. CUP’s position hasn’t changed since the electoral campaign. The radical left party have repeatedly insisted that they won’t instate Mas as President and emphasised that “the priority” is what to do after the democratic mandate of the 27-S, when to start the independence process and how to proceed.
However, both parties did agree on the roadmap to start building “an independent Catalan State in the form of a republic” and presented a proposal which was approved by the Parliament on the 9th of November. The proposal established the “will to start the negotiations in order to make the democratic mandate of creating a new independent Catalan State effective” and communicate this to the Spanish State, the EU and the international community as a whole. “The process of democratic disconnection won’t be subject to Spanish institutions’ decisions, particularly those from the Spanish Constitutional Court, which is regarded as discredited and without competences” states the declaration’s text, which also urged the new government to “obey exclusively those mandates produced” by the Parliament. However, twenty-two days after being approved, the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) declared the declaration unconstitutional and, therefore, invalid.
On the same day as Spain's electoral campaign officially began, 'Junts Pel Sí' presented a social action plan, in response to CUP's call to make a move and negotiate also in the social field. The proposal included measures to fight energy poverty, raise the minimum salary and establish the deed of assignment in payment so as to avoid debt continuing for the particulars even though they have been evicted, amongst others. CUP MP Benet Salellas defined 'Junts Pel Sí's action plan as "the first example of precision" and admitted that the negotiations were now entering "a decisive phase".
Catalonia in the spotlight
The strategy regarding Catalonia and its push for independence has been a crucial battlefield throughout the electoral campaign. Many Spanish parties have expressed their support or open opposition to Catalonia's right to decide and reform of the Spanish Constitution to improve Spain's current territorial organisation has also been the focus of the main parties' programmes. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy described Catalonia’s aspirations as “one of the biggest defiances in Spain’s history”.
“Mariano Rajoy is the only guarantee to get rid of the toxic process which is dividing Catalans” stated the Catalan People’s Party’s candidate for Barcelona and current Spanish Minister for Home Affairs, Jorge Fernández Díaz. He assured that Spain “is not for sale, nor likely to be broken”. The PPC’s candidate for Barcelona accused the pro-independence forces of being “traitors” for “breaking the constitutional agreement” and assured that “nobody has ever dared to go this far”.
On the opposite side, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC)’s candidate for Barcelona in the Spanish Elections Carme Chacón stated that “Catalonia won’t bear four more years of Rajoy”. “We will fight to restore the dialogue” she stated and lamented that such a lack of dialogue between the Catalan and Spanish institutions “has never been seen before”. She accused current Catalan President Artur Mas of “breaking the law” and putting Catalonia’s EU membership “at risk” with his proposals, but also pointed to Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, as being responsible for such an “unacceptable” situation where “dialogue continues to be non-existent”. In line with this, the Socialists’ project is to reform the Spanish Constitution and improve the territorial agreement so that Catalonia won’t need to break away. “We want Catalonia to vote” she stated, “to vote for a new territorial agreement” she nuanced “and we want Catalans to agree and to stay”.
Although Ciutadans is a party born and raised in Catalonia, its anti-Catalan Nationalism component has defined the party since its creation in 2005. Its candidate for Barcelona, Juan Carlos Girauta, criticised President Mas for assuming “what the majority of Catalans want even before they vote”. “Spain’s sovereignty is not negotiable” warned Girauta and assured that “the right of self-determination is only applicable to colonies and countries subjected to tyranny” and therefore “not for Catalonia”. However, Girauta considers it to be “perfectly normal to buy the independence argument” due to Spain’s economic crisis and the “discrediting of its democratic institutions” but assured that this was “a lie” rather than a real solution. “We want to deeply reform Spain” stated Girauta “we want to attack the degeneration of the democratic quality, fight against the political disaffection and guarantee the separation of powers, which are in serious danger”.
Spanish alternative left Podemos is the only Spanish party which openly supports Catalonia’s right to decide and which is likely to obtain remarkable results in the elections. Podemos have expressed their commitment to “promoting the celebration of a referendum with legal guarantees in Catalonia so that the citizens can choose the kind of territorial relationship they would like to establish with Spain”. “We want Catalonia to stay, but we want them to vote” stated Podemos’ leader, Pablo Iglesias. Soon after the 27-S Catalan elections, Iglesias spoke in support of a “pluri-national model” of Spain “where Catalonia could fit” and criticised Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s “stagnant strategy”.