Catalan election marked by Covid sees record low turnout of 53%

Dramatic drop of 27 percentage points from all-time high of almost 80% in 2017 election

A vote is cast in Tarragona during the 2021 Catalan election, February 14, 2021 (by Mar Rovira)
A vote is cast in Tarragona during the 2021 Catalan election, February 14, 2021 (by Mar Rovira) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 14, 2021 10:53 PM

Turnout for the 2021 Catalan election was 53.55%, the lowest in modern times, with 99.79% of the votes counted.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been cited as a major factor for the dramatic drop in the number of ballots cast, after the record high of 79.09% in 2017.

53.55% is the lowest turnout since democracy returned to Catalonia following the Franco dictatorship; the previous record was 54.87% in 1992.

It is in stark contrast to the 2017 election, which marked an all-time high for turnout. That vote took place just two months after Catalonia defied the Spanish courts to hold an independence referendum and followed a period of direct rule from Madrid.

Despite the fall in turnout, the coronavirus pandemic prompted a dramatic rise in the number of people choosing to vote by mail. Postal votes amounted to 269,586 votes, an increase of 350% on 2017.

As for Catalans living abroad, only 15,509 of 255,087 were able to register in time for the election. The International Federation of Catalan Associations (FIEC) cited a "perfect storm" of the pandemic, having to actively register to vote from abroad, and "confusion" regarding the date of an election that was delayed before reverting to the original date following a court ruling.

Despite assurances from the government that voting would be completely safe, it would seem that some were not entirely convinced. Perhaps voter apathy has played a part too, following increases in turnout for four consecutive elections.