Higher turnout in Catalonia's municipal elections, while citizens vote with uncertain political horizons
By 6 pm (CET time), two hours before the electoral polls close, 44.58% of Catalans had already voted, 6 percentage point higher than the 38.24% registered at the same time in 2011. However, in Barcelona, the turnout is much higher, reaching 46.37% (while four years ago it was 38.21%). This 8 percentage point difference is due to the political battle taking place in the Catalan capital, where the alternative left coalition Barcelona en Comú has a chance of winning the elections ahead of the incumbent Mayor and candidate for the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Xavier Trias. Left-wing voters are likely to have flocked to the electoral polls with the hope of displacing Trias, while many other voters are also likely to have gone to the electoral polls in great numbers to stop the alternative left candidate and former social activist Ada Colau from winning the elections. Election day has gone off without incident but with uncertain political horizons.
Barcelona (ACN).- Catalans are voting this Sunday to elect their municipal councils and mayors in a calm day without any incidents but which is marked by an agitated political atmosphere with uncertain horizons. By 6 pm (CET time), two hours before the electoral polls close, 44.58% of Catalans had already voted, 6 percentage point higher than the 38.24% registered at the same time in the previous local elections in 2011, according to official figures. However, in Barcelona, the turnout is much higher, reaching 46.37% by 6 pm (while four years ago it was 38.21%). This 8 percentage point difference is due to the political battle taking place in the Catalan capital, where the alternative left coalition Barcelona en Comú has a chance of winning the local elections ahead of the incumbent Mayor and re-election candidate for the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Xavier Trias. Left-wing voters are likely to have flocked to the electoral polls with the hope of displacing Trias, while many other voters are also likely to have gone to the electoral polls in great numbers to stop the alternative left candidate and former social activist Ada Colau from winning the elections.
Furthermore, these local elections have been presented by pro-independence parties as a first step before the Catalan Parliament elections, which are supposed to take place on 27 September next. September’s elections are likely to become a 'de facto' plebiscite on independence from Spain, since it is the only option left to hold an independence vote after two-and-a-half years of a no-to-everything attitude from the Spanish Government, which has rejected to talk about any mutually-agreed vote, has ignored the results from the last Catalan elections and has downplayed the many democratic claims asking for a self-determination referendum.
In addition, these elections come after 7 years of economic crisis and despite the economic recovery already starting more than a year ago according to the macro-economic indicators, a large share of citizens are still suffering the consequences and now live in worse conditions than in 2008. Unemployment levels are still very high, salaries have been frozen or have directly decreased, reducing the population's purchase power, and many people have lost their home due to bank evictions or part of their savings due to toxic bank products. On top of this, a long list of corruption scandals has deeply affected traditional politics, the main political parties and public institutions in general.
New and secondary parties are presenting themselves as the alternative, and all the polls are predicting significant losses for the main parties and a significant rise in support for these new political actors. In some places, there may be great surprises and they could even win the elections or be essential to forming a stable government. Therefore, the political climate is extremely agitated and the political horizons quite uncertain, with poll having shown on many recent occasions that they are not quite reliable in uncertain political climates.
The 'battle of Barcelona'
The city of Barcelona is the main electoral battle in these local elections in Catalonia. The absolute majority is set at 21 seats for the municipal council, but this has not happened for many elections in the Catalan capital, where the mayor tends to form coalitions or rules with a minority government. Incumbent Mayor, Xavier Trias, from the CiU, has 14 seats. Polls predict a drop but he could still be the front-runner with between 9 and 12 seats (depending on the survey). Ada Colau, from Barcelona en Comú alternative left coalition, could displace Trias, getting between 7 and 11 seats (depending on the poll).
The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) could suffer significant losses and become a secondary player, after having run the local government without interruption between 1979 and 2011. The People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government and has partly focused its campaign on immigration, could also experience an important drop in support. Voters from these two parties could feed support for the anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C's) which could become the first party in Barcelona's City Council with 5-6 seats. In the rest of Spain, where there are elections for the respective regional parliaments as well in some Autonomous Communities, C's is likely to become the great surprise of election night. The left-wing pro-independence party ERC may significantly increase its results in Barcelona, obtaining between 4 and 6 seats, but it will probably be far from the two main parties. Finally, the radical independence and alternative left party CUP could enter Barcelona's City Council for the first time, gaining up to 3 seats.
Catalonia's provincial capitals
In Catalonia's other main cities, turnout by 6 pm is also about 5 or 6 percentage points higher than it was four years ago. In Tarragona, 43.21% of all potential voters had cast their vote by 6 pm, while in 2011 this was 37.52%. Polls predict that the incumbent Mayor, Josep Fèlix Ballesteros, from the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) is likely to win again, but be far from having an absolute majority in the local council, set at 14 seats. Ballesteros could drop from 12 seats to 10 or 9, but still be the front-runner. In addition, new parties are likely to enter the City Council, namely C's, the ERC and perhaps the CUP.
In Girona, the incumbent Mayor, Carles Puigdemont, from the CiU, is likely to win the elections again, with 10-11 seats. Currently he has 10 seats. The PSC would drop from 7 to 3-5 seats (according to the poll) and the ERC and C's are like to enter the City Council, while the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA may disappear from the City Council. By 6 pm, 42.41% of potential voters had cast their vote in Girona, while in 2011 this was 37.55%.
Finally, in Lleida, the incumbent Mayor Angel Ros, from the PSC, is likely to win again, although he may lose seats and his absolute majority. Currently, he holds 15 seats and could get between 10 and 12 seats in the end. The CiU and the PP are also likely to lose seats. The ERC will return to Lleida's City Council, while C's and the CUP would sit there for the first time. Turnout by 6 pm in Lleida stood at 39.95%, while in 2011 it was 34.64%.