CUP: pro-independence kingmaker with anti-capitalist agenda

Far-left party is expected to make big gains on February 14 and could again tip the scales in favor of the independence bloc

Former Badalona mayor and CUP's presidential candidate in the next Catalan election, Dolors Sabater (by Jordi Pujolar)
Former Badalona mayor and CUP's presidential candidate in the next Catalan election, Dolors Sabater (by Jordi Pujolar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 12, 2021 08:45 PM

CUP, an acronym for People’s Unity Candidacy, is a far-left anti-capitalist party, with its roots running deep into social movements all across Catalonia. 

Since first entering parliament in 2012, CUP has been the smallest pro-independence force in the chamber—but its real political influence greatly exceeds its relatively small number of seats, and could again be the kingmaker following the February 14 election.

Election prospects

According to polls, CUP will most likely improve their 2017 results, when they fell from 10 to 4 seats, and could more than double their number of MPs.

But more than the exact number of lawmakers they get out of the 135-member chamber, what matters to CUP is whether the two major pro-independence parties, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) and Esquerra (ERC), need its votes to surpass the 68-vote threshold to have an absolute majority.

Political influence

CUP was instrumental in the unlikely rise of Carles Puigdemont, who became the president of the Catalan government after the far-left party vetoed his predecessor Artur Mas, arguably the most powerful politician in Catalonia at the time.

CUP would later pressure Puigdemont to call a referendum in the fall of 2017 and declare independence—but Madrid authorities trumped the attempt to separate from Spain, and Puigdemont and his ministers ended up either in prison or in exile.

How to move forward after the failed independence push remains a highly contentious issue. CUP accuses JxCat and ERC of believing in "magic solutions", or, in other words, promising what they cannot reasonably deliver.

CUP’s presidential candidate is Dolors Sabater, the former mayor of Badalona, the fourth largest town in Catalonia north of Barcelona. She has dismissed JxCat’s proposal for declaring independence the day after the election "without explaining how independence will be sustained", and criticized ERC for pledging dialogue with Spain as the means to solve the independence conflict.

Election programme

CUP’s political roadmap envisions holding another independence referendum not later than 2025. This time, though, the party wants to make sure that the government and the parliament have created "public structures" that strengthen Catalonia’s capacity to effectively declare independence from Spain, like a public lender. 

Other flagship policies from CUP’s election program include a universal basic income for all residents, which would partly get funded by a 50% tax on income, as well as a 100% tax on extreme wealth, thus effectively setting a limit on how much wealth people can amass. 

CUP is very much in favor of a strong public sector, and has vigorously advocated for the creation of a public pharmaceutical industry "to prioritize public health over private profits".

The anti-capitalist party also defends aggressive economic policies like the nationalization of companies that plan to move their production plants out of Catalonia. CUP also defends taking over empty apartments owned by banks and hedge funds to make them public.