Ciutadans: Catalonia’s anti-independence champions
Q&A on Inés Arrimadas' unionist party, which aims to defeat pro-independence candidacies in the upcoming election
What is Ciutadans?
Ciutadans (Catalan for “Citizens”) is the main unionist party in Catalonia. In the 2015 election, the party came second only after the pro-independence coalition Together for Yes, thus establishing Ciutadans’ leader Inés Arrimadas as the Head of the Opposition at the Catalan Parliament. Since then, Ciutadans emerged as the anti-independence champions in Catalonia. In the 2017 campaign, the party took over a pro-independence chant popularized in the run-up to the October 1 referendum, turning it into a unionist motto instead: “Now, we will vote for real”.
What is their stance on independence?
Ciutadans is a clear-cut anti-independence party. When it was created in 2006, Ciutadans rallied against the use of Catalan as the main language in schools and institutions. In recent years, as the independence movement became mainstream, Ciutadans became one of its most severe critics.
Ciutadans backed all the Spanish state’s measures to trump the plans for independence, such as dismissing the government and sending its ministers to prison. The party also doubled-down on their accusations of indoctrination against Catalan schools, as well as questioned the impartiality of Catalonia’s public media.
What do polls say?
If the polls are right, Ciutadans will again emerge as the main unionist party in Catalonia following the December 21 election. In fact, it could even surpass the pro-independence tickets —now running separately— to become the largest party in a highly fragmented Parliament. Ciutadans is likely to add to the 25 MPs it got in 2015.
What are Ciutadans competitors on the unionist side?
In the past election, Spain’s ruling People’s Party came second-to-last. Ciutadans’ main competitor on the unionist side are the Socialists, with a less severe stance on independence. Indeed, Ciutadans is fishing for votes in traditional strongholds of the Socialist party —the industrial towns located in the so-called red-belt. Catalonia’s population boom in the past century was largely due to Spanish immigration, and Barcelona’s neighboring towns were among the top destinations. Although a large part of Catalonia's melting pot —with roots all across Spain— supports independence, Ciutadans is campaigning on the idea that pro-independence parties do not represent them.
Where does Ciutadans stand on other issues?
Ciutadans present themselves as a centrist party. At the European Parliament, they are part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Although the party was originally created in Catalonia, in recent years it expanded throughout Spain and became the fourth largest party at the Spanish Parliament with 32 seats out of 350. Right-wing People’s Party rules Spain thanks to Ciutadans support. According to the Spanish Center for Sociological Research, people see Ciutadans as a center-right party: in a 0-10 scale representing the left-right axis, Ciutadans average ranking was 6.46.