Ciudadanos: staunchly anti-independence with bleak prospects

Polls predict dramatic drop in support for force that aims to put together unionist bloc

Ciudadanos candidates Anna Grau (left), Carlos Carrizosa (right), and party president Inés Arrimadas (centre) speak at a campaign event in Barcelona (image from Ciudadanos)
Ciudadanos candidates Anna Grau (left), Carlos Carrizosa (right), and party president Inés Arrimadas (centre) speak at a campaign event in Barcelona (image from Ciudadanos) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 9, 2021 11:16 AM

“We feel threatened by those who defend terrorism,” Ciudadanos’ Carlos Carrizosa, the party’s presidential candidate in the February 14 election, claimed during a bitter September 2019 parliamentary debate on the detention of pro-independence CDR activists. 

Carrizosa, as the argument got more heated, was then forced to leave the chamber for speaking out of turn and, followed by fellow Ciudadanos MPs on his way out, insisted on telling pro-independence lawmakers that the 2017 referendum had been a “coup”. 

While not an everyday occurrence in Parliament, this incident perfectly exemplifies Ciudadanos’ markedly anti-independence stance over the past term in which the issue has been the focal point of their agenda and remains central to their current electoral program

What does Ciudadanos stand for? 

Founded in Barcelona in 2006 to live up to the principles of “citizenship, freedom and equality, secularism, bilingualism, and the Spanish constitution,” as the head of the opposition in Parliament since December 2017 the party has, more often than not, defined itself almost exclusively by its position against (Catalan) nationalism

Ciudadanos describes itself as a liberal and pro-EU force at the center of the political spectrum, although elsewhere in Spain it has tended to forge alliances with far-right and conservative forces rather than the left-leaning Socialists. Firmly against dialogue on anything relating to Catalan independence, the party also opposes an amnesty for the jailed referendum organizers. 

“We can either choose to prolong the pro-independence nightmare,” Carrizosa said at a recent campaign event in Barcelona, “or choose a government that carries out a bearable term for all those who yearn for rights, freedom, economy, and social measures.”

Position in Spanish and Catalan politics

Ciudadanos was once a major player in Spanish politics, but this is currently far from the truth. After first entering Spain’s Congress in 2016 and eventually becoming the third most-voted party in the country, the party suffered a spectacular loss in the November 2019 general election and went from having 57 MPs to a mere 10 out of 350.

In Catalonia, the unionist party was the most-voted force in the December 2017 election—the first after the failed independence push—winning 36 seats in Parliament. Despite obtaining the largest share of the vote, however, Ciudadanos was not able to form a government and has headed the anti-independence opposition since then. 

Will Cs hold onto its position as Catalonia’s unionist champion?

Polls suggest the party could suffer a similarly gloomy fate in Catalonia as it did in Spain, only earning between 10 and 15 seats in a phenomenon some commentators attribute both to the rise of the far-right Vox party, as well as Ciudadanos’ insistence on framing most issues in relation to Catalan independence. 

Given the few seats they are projected to win, it is unlikely they will be instrumental when it comes to forming a government. The party clearly cannot see eye to eye with the pro-independence forces, but they have stated they will attempt to forge an alliance with the unionist Socialists and the People’s Party, though far-right Vox has not been ruled out either despite their claims to “abhor” their “racism and xenophobia”.