Centre-Right Catalan Nationalism (CiU) wins Barcelona and Girona for the first time in democractic times

'Convergència i Unió' (CiU) increases its vote share across Catalonia and becomes the leading party in number of votes. The large victory backs the Catalan Government’s controversial austerity measures. The Catalan Government and Barcelona City Council will be run by the same party, CiU. The Catalan Socialist Party loses large cities and 22% of its votes across the country. The People’s Party becomes the third party and wins in Badalona with a discourse focused on illegal immigration. ERC loses around a third of its votes but other pro Catalan independence parties gain support. The xenophobic and extreme right PxC remains marginal but increases its base and enters the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. The turnout was 55%, one point higher than in 2007. The null or spoilt vote multiplied its share by three but remains marginal.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

May 23, 2011 12:13 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- This municipal elections in Catalonia brought an historic change across the country. The Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU) won in Barcelona and in Girona for the first time in democractic times, ending a 32-year period of Socialist leadership. Barcelona was the great electoral battle and CiU won it. Xavier Trias will become the next Mayor of Barcelona, winning three more seats than in 2007, but far from the absolute majority. CiU will attempt to govern alone, with support from different parties depending on the issues. The People’s Party (PP) is well placed and already said to be open to dialogue, although agreements with the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) cannot be completely discarded. In addition, CiU increased its presence almost in all Catalan town halls. These results indirectly backed the austerity measures of the Catalan Government, which is run by the Catalan nationalists. Also for the first time, CiU overtook the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) as the first political force in Catalonia in number of votes. While CiU won some 50,000 votes, the PSC lost around 200,000 votes, which represents losing 22% of its base. In addition, the PSC lost control of many significant town halls across the country, such as in Barcelona, Girona, Badalona, Mataró, Reus, Igualada, and Manresa, among others. Among the large cities, the Socialists only resisted in Lleida, where they got the same number of councillors and kept the absolute majority. On top of this, the PSC lost the absolute majority in almost all the town halls of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. The People’s Party (PP) becomes the third political force in Catalonia in number of votes and increases by 66% its number of councillors. The PP achieved an historical victory in Badalona, a residential city within Greater Barcelona but the third Catalan city in number of inhabitants. It is the first time in democractic times that the PP wins in a large city in Catalonia. In Badalona, the PP focused its discourse on immigration, linking it with insecurity and social problems; a discourse that other political forces directly qualified as racist. On the other side of the political sprectrum the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party ‘Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya’ (ERC) lost a quarter of its support. However, in Barcelona, where ERC was running in a coalition with former FC Barcelona’s President Joan Laporta lost half of its councillors. The Catalan Green Socialists (ICV-EUiA) maintained their support overall, despite increasing its representation in Barcelona City Council but losing seats in Lleida and other town halls. The xenophobic and anti-immigration party ‘Plataforma per Catalunya’ (PxC) remained marginal but multiplied by almost four its number of councillors. PxC's total numbers are still very low, with 2.3% of the votes, but they increased their presence and for the first time won seats in town halls in Greater Barcelona.

The effect of the citizen protests

These elections were held in a context of citizen protests in the squares of Catalonia's largest cities. However, it is difficult to link them with electoral behaviour. The protests were not asking for people to vote for a specific party, neither for going to vote even. Nevertheless, some of the protesters defended the null vote, the NOTA vote (also called “blank vote”), or abstention. The elections’ turnout was one point higher than in 2007, with 55%. The null vote passed from 0.65% to 1.72% of the votes. The NOTA vote passed from 3.13% to 4.10%, getting the support of almost 120,000 citizens. In addition, in Barcelona, where thousands of citizens are still camping on Catalunya Square, the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV-EUiA) won another seat, passing from 4 to 5 councillors. ICV-EUiA was the only left-wing party to increase its representation in Barcelona City Council.

CiU wins in Barcelona

As polls had been indicating over the last number of months, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) lost in Barcelona for the first time since 1979, when democratic municipal elections were held for the first time after Franco’s death. The PSC candidature was headed by the incumbent Mayor Jordi Hereu. The PSC passed from 14 to 11 councillors, in a City Council where the absolute majority is 21 seats. The leader of the municipal opposition, Xavier Trias, will become the next Mayor of Barcelona. Trias headed CiU for the third time, and he passed from 12 to 15 councillors, overtaking the PSC. However, CiU still lacks six seats to get the absolute majority. Xavier Trias has already announced he will try to run the city government alone, reaching specific agreements with other parties on specific issues. The Conservative People’s Party (PP) increased its representation, passing from seven to eight councillors, and already offered its support to Trias. However, agreements with the PSC cannot be discarded either. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party ERC was running in an electoral coalition called ‘Unitat per Barcelona’ (UpB), formed with an ERC splinter group called ‘Reagrupament’ and the former FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta. UpB only received two seats, while ERC in 2007 won four councillors. Finally, as aforementioned, ICV-EUiA got five seats, one more than in 2007.

CiU becomes Catalonia’s first party

Catalonia’s map is now dominated by CiU. Looking at Catalonia’s country map, which has 41 counties, CiU wins in 33, the PSC in 7, and a party linked to CiU in the other one. The Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU) increased the number of votes, councillors, and mayors. CiU overtook the PSC as the first party in number of votes, with 778,000 votes, 55,000 more than in 2007. On the contrary, the PSC lost 203,000 votes, 22% less than in the last elections. In relative terms, CiU got 27.12% of the votes, and the PSC the 25.14%. The third party is now the PP with 363,000 of the votes, which represents a share of 12.67% and 80,000 more votes that in 2007. ERC dropped from 334,000 to 257,000 votes. ICV-EUiA remains the fifth party, passing from 257,000 to 241,000 votes.

In addition, CiU is also the first party in number of councillors won and town halls controlled. CiU increased its councillors by 13%, getting a total of 3,860 seats across Catalonia’s town halls. The PSC is the second party in number of councillors, and passed from 2,570 in 2007 to 2,117 this year’s elections. The third party in number of councillors is ERC, passing from 1,581 to 1,384. The fourth position is changed: the PP overtook ICV-EUiA. The PP now has 473 councillors, when in 2007 it achieved 284. It represents a 66% increase. ICV-EUiA passed from 451 to 398 councillors.

In addition, CiU won in 507 municipalities from a total of 947 cities, towns and villages. Among the rest of the main parties, the PSC won in 207 municipalities; ERC won in 134 towns and villages; ICV-EUiA in 23 and the PP in 6.

The increases of two other parties

Two smaller parties experienced a great increase in the number of votes, although they both remain marginal. In a very different way, both parties express a radical vote of complaint.

One is the xenophobic ‘Plataforma per Catalunya’ (PxC), which delivers an anti-immigration discourse. PxC got 65,000 votes, a 2.3% share. However, it experienced a significant increase, as in 2007 it only got 12,000 votes. It has also increased its institutional representation, passing from 17 to 67 councillors across Catalonia. For the first time, it entered into town halls of Greater Barcelona, such as in L’Hospitalet del Llobregat (Catalonia’s second most populated city) and in Santa Coloma de Gramanet.

The other political force is not a regular party but a union of candidatures in different towns and villages. It is a radical left-wing and pro Catalan independence force called ‘Candidatura d’Unitat Popular’ (CUP). They passed from 18,000 in 2007 to 63,000 votes in these elections. In terms of institutional representation, the CUP passed from 20 to 101 councillors. They got seats for the first time in significant town halls, such as in Girona (three) and Banyoles (two), and also in Greater Barcelona city councils, such as in Sant Cugat del Vallès (two) or in Molins de Rei, where they passed from one to four. In addition, for the first time, the CUP was the first party in two villages and will be in charge of the mayoral office.