A calm electoral campaign ends with an absolute majority almost guaranteed for the PP
Catalonia and the Basque Country might be the only Autonomous Communities in Spain without a victory for the People’s Party (PP). The Socialists are likely to win once again in Catalonia, but they risk loosing 40% of their seats. If they slump even further then they risk being overtaken by the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) or even the PP. A quiet electoral campaign has come to an end, with three main unknown answers: if the Socialist party will get its worst results over the past few decades, if they will also lose in their stronghold of Catalonia, and how the international financial markets will react in the coming days.
Barcelona (ACN).- One of the quietest electoral campaigns in many years finished on Friday in Spain. It is almost completely certain that the People\u2019s Party (PP) will achieve an absolute majority. In fact, polls indicate they will probably win their best results in history while, on the contrary, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) \u2013which currently runs the Spanish Government\u2013 might face its worst results yet. Catalonia and the Basque Country might be the only two Autonomous Communities where the People\u2019s Party might not win. And Catalonia might be the only place in Spain where the Socialist party might win, even though it is not fully guaranteed. The Socialists risk losing between a third and 40% of their MPs in Catalonia, according to the latest polls. Therefore, despite winning in Catalonia, the victory might feel as a defeat for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), the Social-Democrat party running in Catalonia after the PSOE merged in the 1970s with two Catalan Socialist parties. However, the Socialists also risk loosing in Catalonia, which is an unlikely possibility according to the polls but it cannot be completely ruled out. If that happened, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition \u2018Convergència i Unió\u2019 (CiU) could win the elections in Catalonia. However, CiU is also battling it out with the People\u2019s Party for second place in Catalonia: CiU would get more MPs but the PP might get more votes according to last weekend\u2019s polls. Therefore, it is not completely unthinkable that the PP win in Catalonia, which would be a total shake up in Catalan politics, where the PP is considered the third or the fourth party, traditionally only winning around 15% of the votes. However, this time the PP might get 25% of the votes in Catalonia. Therefore the campaign in Catalonia has been mainly about stopping the PP or having the sufficient strength to challenge the PP after the elections. A quiet electoral campaign has come to an end, with three main unknown answers: if the Socialist party will get its worst results over the past few decades, if they will also lose in their stronghold of Catalonia, and how the international financial markets will react in the coming days. In fact, despite the elections, financial markets have been putting Spain in their spotlight, and their reaction after the elections has been the campaign\u2019s main uncertainty.
The PSC, which won 25 MPs in 2008 out of the 47 elected in Catalonia, has run a campaign based on vindicating the classical Social-Democrat values of \u201Csocial justice\u201D. The PSC front runner, the Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacón, has ran a campaign very much focused on seducing traditional left-wing voters, in line with the PSOE's main candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Chacón focused on two geographic areas: Greater Barcelona and Tarragona, where the PSC is on the verge of winning or losing an MP. Tarragona is for the Socialists a key area to stop the PP, as they did in 2004 and 2008, since the People\u2019s Party promoted the so-called \u2018Plan Hidrológico Nacional\u2019 (Hydrological National Plan) to transport water from the Ebro River (in Tarragona) to the south of Spain. In the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, Chacón focused on motivating working class voters, the traditional base of the Socialist Party. The PSC focused on attacking the budget cuts on public spending to reduce the public deficit decided by the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), who are currently in charge of the Catalan Government. The PSC linked CiU\u2019s budget cuts to those the PP would implement if they form the new Spanish Government. This is also Rubalcaba\u2019s main message: voting the Socialist party to stop the Right-Wing\u2019s budget cuts on social policies. A controversial video produced by the PSC added tension in the campaign, where they linked budget cuts on healthcare with patients dying. After the controversy and the condemnation of the other parties, especially by CiU, Chacón denied knowing about the video and the film was scrapped.
CiU\u2019s campaign has focused on asking for a new economic agreement between Catalonia and Spain, similar to that of the Basque Country and Navarra, which CiU has called the \u201Cfiscal agreement\u201D. CiU\u2019s main message is that Catalonia is giving too much money to the rest of Spain in terms of inter-regional solidarity (between 6.5% and 9% of its annual GDP depending on studies). The Catalan nationalist main candidate for the Spanish elections is CiU\u2019s number two, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida. Duran, while explaining why the \u201Cfiscal agreement\u201D is needed, created controversy throughout Spain just before the campaign\u2019s kick off by saying that Catalonia\u2019s money was subsidising Andalusian country workers sitting all day in bars. Despite the controversy, Duran repeated the argument during the campaign, since Duran\u2019s constituency is Barcelona province, and not Andalusia. Duran also had an impact throughout Spain, when he proposed a salvation government for Spain after the elections, due to the pressure of the financial markets and the need to impulse ambitious reforms. It would be formed by the PP, the PSOE and the Basque and Catalan nationalists. CiU has put as a sine qua non condition to participate in such a government: negotiating the \u201Cfiscal agreement\u201D. The President of the PP and the probable next Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has said he will listen to CiU\u2019s proposal, but it is very unlikely he will do anything further if the PP has an absolute majority and does not need CiU\u2019s votes in the Spanish Parliament. Therefore, Duran\u2019s main electoral argument to ask for the Catalans vote has been that CiU represents the strength needed in Madrid to put forward Catalonia\u2019s interests.
The People\u2019s Party in Catalonia has run a quiet campaign, as in the rest of Spain. The President of the PP, Mariano Rajoy, has run a campaign throughout Spain aimed at not raising any controversy and mobilise PSOE supporters; Rajoy has run a campaign intentionally dull, without clear promises or measures. A calculated ambiguity that should enable him to not make too many commitments and not unveil unpopular measures that might put the PP\u2019s absolute majority at risk. The PP\u2019s main message has been criticising the current economic situation in Spain and stating that its priority is the creation of jobs. It appears that the strategy has been working. In addition, the PP leader changed more than a year ago the past strategy to back anti-Catalan messages or campaigns throughout Spain, and now the PP does not make statements against Catalonia. And this new approach also seems to have been working in Catalonia. The PP\u2019s main candidate in Barcelona province is Jorge Fernández Díaz, an experienced politician but not very well known by the citizens. He has run a campaign accordingly, in which he has been sharing the leading role with other personalities of the party. In fact the PP\u2019s campaign has been mainly about waiting for the inevitable to happen: a deep Socialist defeat, placing the PP on the top of Spanish institutions.
The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party \u2018Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya\u2019 (ERC) is running after a deep renovation of the party leadership. ERC\u2019s frontrunner in the Spanish elections, Alfred Bosch, is a writer and historian, who has joined politics very recently. In addition, he won the nomination after ERC\u2019s primary elections. Bosch, in line with ERC\u2019s new leadership, is delivering a more radical speech towards Catalan independence. The previous leadership was more pragmatic, wanting to tend towards independence slowly, while the current ERC is more focused on immediate results, since it has been challenged by smaller Catalan-independence parties. Therefore, ERC\u2019s main message for the Spanish elections has been criticism towards what they believe is the plundering Catalonia is suffering from Spain and saying that they will go to the Spanish Parliament to protest. ERC, especially in the latter days of the campaign, has become more and more vocal, and has condemned the Spanish political class' treatment of Catalonia, which they associate with discrimination and bullying.
Finally, the Catalan Green Socialist Party \u2018Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds\u2019 (ICV), which runs with the Catalan branch of the Communist \u2018Izquierda Unida\u2019 (EUiA), has focused its campaign on mobilising the angry left-wing voter with the way the financial crisis is being managed. ICV-EUiA\u2019s main candidate in Catalonia is the former union leader Joan Coscubiela. Coscubiela\u2019s main message has been to mobilise left-wing voters and those protesting for the budget cuts and the bank bailouts. ICV-EUiA\u2019s aim is to capitalise the protests by the \u201Cindignados\u201D, similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and convince these citizens to channel their anger through voting for them. The strategy might bring them one or two more MPs, passing from 1 to 2 or 3 in Catalonia.