Party Review – Ciutadans (C’s), the anti-Catalan nationalism and left-wing party
With 3.39% of the votes in the last elections and 3 MPs in the Catalan Parliament, polls indicate that the number of Ciutadans’s MPs could double in the next elections, resulting in between 6 and 8 MPs, and forming its own parliamentary group for the first time. In its 6 years of existence, it has mainly focused on attacking the policies defending the Catalan language. Now, clearly opposed to Catalan independence and organising a self-determination referendum, C’s is lifting the banner of Spanish unity to attract voters. Ciutadans is seen by many as a populist party, with a conflict-driven speech criticising Catalonia’s political class and offering easy solutions to complex social problems.
Barcelona (ACN).- In the next elections, the anti-Catalan nationalism and left-wing party Ciutadans (C’s) might have significantly improved results, although it will likely remain among the smallest parties in the Catalan Parliament. With 3.39% of the votes in the last elections and 3 MPs in the Catalan Parliament, current polls indicate that the number of Ciutadans’s MPs could double on the 25th of November, resulting in between 6 and 8 MPs and forming its own parliamentary group for the first time. Ciutadans is seen by many as a populist party, with a conflict-driven speech criticising Catalonia’s political class and Catalan nationalism, while offering easy solutions to complex social problems. In its 6 years of existence, C’s has mainly focused on attacking the policies defending the Catalan language, despite the fact that they guarantee a bilingual society with knowledge of both Catalan and Spanish. However, C’s states that the Spanish language is in danger in Catalonia, although merely walking through the streets or looking at scientific studies and historical facts – such as the Franco dictatorship’s attack against Catalan – show the contrary. C’s claims to defend bilingualism, but in practice they support the prevalence of the Spanish language over Catalan. Now, being clearly opposed to Catalan independence and the organisation a self-determination referendum, C’s is lifting the banner of Spanish unity to attract voters, mainly from the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and the People’s Party (PP). In addition, it is trying to mobilise new voters by insisting on debating Catalan independence. C’s is using the Spanish official anthem as its campaign song in these elections, proof of its support for Spanish nationalism. Its electoral motto is “Better together”, displayed on a heart with the Spanish, Catalan and European flags.
Albert Rivera leads Ciutadans
Ciutadans is led by Albert Rivera, who was born in Granollers (Greater Barcelona) in 1979. Rivera studied Law at the private Business School ESADE and came into contact with the University of Barcelona’s Constitutional Law Chair Francesc de Carreras. De Carreras was one of the 15 intellectuals (as they called themselves) who in 2005 formed a platform against some of the proposals by Catalan nationalists, in particular the use of the Catalan language in the public sphere. The party was formed the year after to run in the 2006 Catalan elections and a very young Rivera chaired it (he was 26 at the time). Back then, C’s refused to say if they were left-wing or right-wing and their proposals were mainly focused against Catalan nationalism. The party evolved – with quite a few internal disputes – and since mid-2007 it has officially claimed to be a liberal centre left-wing party. They mostly praise individual freedom but their defence of the Welfare State put them apart from Neo-Liberal traditions. In addition, they state that they are against nationalism, but their speeches, actions and programme put them among the Spanish nationalists.
Now, Rivera is facing his third Catalan elections leading C’s, after winning 3 seats at Catalonia’s Parliament in 2006 and repeating these results in 2010. With sharp and agile oratory skills, Rivera has often addressed the Parliament in a tense tone, with demagogical attacks against the political class and Catalan nationalism. Furthermore his speeches tend to be short – due to C’s small number of MPs – with a populist flair, offering superficial solutions to complex issues, such as house evictions.
C’s wants to attract votes mainly from the PSC and the PP
Despite criticising Catalan nationalists for proposing a self-determination process in times of recession and pushing for Catalonia’s hypothetical independence from Spain, C’s is talking about Catalonia’s independence each day of the campaign. It uses the independence debate in a demagogical way to mobilise voters who feel only Spanish or more Spanish than Catalan. In addition, it adds a touch of populism regarding social measures, in order to address the voters who are seeing social protections mechanisms shrinking because of the economic crisis. Furthermore, it is focusing most of its effort in the so-called ‘red-belt’ surrounding Barcelona, which are the towns around the Catalan capital that grew considerably between the 1960s and 1980s, in order to host the high number of migrant workers arriving from other parts of Spain to work in the factories based in Greater Barcelona. Many of these people have never learned Catalan or they only use it on very few occasions.
C’s is focusing on these working-class areas in order to attract voters away from the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and the People’s Party (PP). C’s could attract PSC voters who are reluctant to support the Socialists’ past agreements with the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) or with their recent move supporting the organisation of a self-determination referendum in Catalonia as a solution to the current situation. C’s could attract PP voters who voted the PP for its Spanish nationalist stances but who are against the budget cuts and austerity measures implemented by the Spanish Government (run by the PP), which affect public services. In addition, C’s could also get the support of people who usually do not vote in the Catalan elections or who do not vote at all, as they might be mobilised to support opposition to Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
C’s accuses Catalan-nationalism of building “Berlin” and Israel/Palestine walls
Along with this strategy mainly based on opposing Catalan independence, C’s has accused Catalan nationalists of building a “Berlin Wall”. Rivera has accused the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), which runs the Catalan Government, of “wanting to raise walls” such as those “between Palestine and Israel” or the “United States and Mexico”. In another campaign rally, Rivera stated he does not want to have “Catalonia split into two sides”, such “as in the Basque Country”, he said. In the Basque Country there are two sides: on one side the Basque nationalists and on the other the Spanish nationalists (called ‘Constitutionalists’), represented by the Socialists and the PP. However, this week, Rivera has paradoxically asked the PSC and the PP to stop all the pacts they have with CiU and ERC in Catalonia’s town halls and Province Councils, as CiU and ERC are Catalan nationalists and they have different ideas about the relationship between Catalonia and Spain. If the PSC and the PP would follow C’s proposal, two political sides would be created in Catalonia, as in the Basque Country.
C’s criminalises Catalonia’s political class
Another of C’s most repeated arguments is criticising Catalonia’s political class, since C’s was only created in 2006 and has been a party without any power over the public institutions and therefore not suspicious of any hypothetical corruptions scandal. During these last few years, C’s has used a few scandals that might have involved to a certain extent CiU and the PSC to accuse both parties of corruption. It needs to be said that these scandals are still being on trial and no firm sentence has been issued. However, C’s accused the CiU and the PSC – Catalonia’s two main political parties – of forming a common coalition that has run Catalonia’s public institutions in a coordinated way in order to hide any corruption scandal. In addition, it also accused the CiU, the PSC and the PP of splitting public offices among themselves.
Finally, C’s third main electoral argument is to defend the Welfare State and to go against the budget cuts and the austerity measures. Regarding the debate in Spain about people being evicted from their homes because they cannot pay the mortgage any longer, C’s has proposed to use 10% of the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB) to “bailout people”, not only banks. In addition, regarding yesterday’s general strike, C’s gave its support to the protest the day before, but Rivera attended a campaign rally with business owners at the elitist English-style club Círculo Equestre, which was scheduled for the same day as the General Strike.