Catalan Socialists aim to fight the election on two fronts

PSC, affiliated to Pedro Sánchez's Spanish Socialists, is taking on the right and the pro-independence camp in the general election

Catalan Socialist leader Miquel Iceta speaking during the debate on the motion of no confidence against president Quim Torra on October 7, 2019 (by Rafa Garrido)
Catalan Socialist leader Miquel Iceta speaking during the debate on the motion of no confidence against president Quim Torra on October 7, 2019 (by Rafa Garrido) / Cristina Tomàs White

ACN | Barcelona

November 7, 2019 08:07 PM

Catalonia's Socialist Party (PSC) opened its campaign for the November 10 general election vowing to fight on two fronts: against the right, and against the independence movement.

The Catalan wing of Spain's Socialist Party (PSOE) maintains that voting for acting Spanish president Pedro Sánchez is the only way to stop conservative parties gaining power.

Party leader, Miquel Iceta, has warned undecided voters that the conservative People's Party "aims to make progressives stand down, as they know it's the only way to win."

PSC also says it is the solution to the Catalan crisis, standing between the independence parties and the unionist parties calling for another suspension of Catalonia's self-rule.

Iceta's message to the pro-independence camp was that his party is willing "to talk and listen," but only on the condition that president Quim Torra "sticks to the rules of the game."

"Moderate, democratic, pro-Catalan and sensible"

The independence issue is a challenge for PSC, which has to follow Sánchez's recent harder line on Catalonia while keeping a distance from Catalan unionist parties on the right.

Iceta recently had to justify PSOE's pledge to ban referendums in Catalonia, saying it was "logical" given that "there are pro-independence supporters who say they'll do it again."

At the same time, PSC condemned the unrest in response to the jailing of Catalan leaders but without the vehement calls for direct rule heard from unionist parties like Ciutadans. 

Accusing his political rivals on both sides of having "become radicalized," Iceta painted a picture of the PSC he leads as "radically moderate, democratic, pro-Catalan and sensible."

Heyday of the Catalan Socialists

A recent poll by the CIS public research institute said that PSC will continue as the second Catalan party in the Spanish congress, perhaps increasing its 12 seats by one or two.

In Catalonia, PSC currently has 17 seats in the parliament, having won one extra seat in the last Catalan election in 2017, and getting a 13.9% share of the total vote.

It is a far cry from the heyday of the Catalan Socialists under Pasqual Maragall, who was president between 2003 and 2006 and was succeeded by José Montilla until 2010.

PSC's share of seats in parliament have dwindled since then - barring the extra seat won in 2017 - from the 52 seats (37.9% share) the party got in 1999, Maragall's first election.

Support for Sánchez

However, in the last Spanish general election, PSC saw its number of seats in congress jump from 7 to 12, in line with Sánchez's victory, albeit without a majority, on April 28.

Given the shared fortunes of the Spanish and Catalan Socialists, Iceta has praised Sánchez, saying "he came in as a president and winner, and that's how it turned out."

The PSC head also warned that on November 10 "either we'll get a government under [PP's Pablo] Casado, hijacked by the far-right, or keep the government under Sánchez."