Party review – ERC, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party
The ERC is going through an inflexion. It was part of the Left-Wing 3-party coalition that ruled the Catalan Government for the last 7 years. After the trimming of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy by the Spanish Constitutional Court, the ERC is now pushing for an independence referendum for the next term. In these elections, they risk losing many seats according to the polls, possibly going back to their 1990s figures and losing their status as the 3rd Catalan party. In addition they are running with a new leader, Joan Puigcercós.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) has Catalan independence as its main political goal. Previously, independence was a goal they were pushing for. Now, they are saying that they do not want shortcuts or intermediate solutions anymore, as they claim to have tried this for the last 7 years. The ERC has been ruling Catalonia in the governing Left-Wing 3-party coalition led by the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is clearly not separatist. They were governing in an agreed road map, where claiming for independence was put aside. However, the ERC considers these times to be over and are stressing that a new period is starting. They consider the \u201CSpain of the autonomous communities\u201D to be over; they claim that Spain does not respect Catalonia and that the status quo cannot be changed. Their main argument for independence is the boom of Spanish Nationalism and the trimming of the already in place Catalan Statute of Autonomy by the Constitutional Court. Therefore, they want to call for an independence referendum in the next term. It is important to stress the democratic spirit of the ERC, which wants to reach independence only by democratic means. The ERC\u2019s president, Joan Puigcercós, took the party\u2019s power from the historic leader Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, who is nowadays the Vice President of the Catalan Government and historically the ERC leader with the best electoral results. Puigcercós is running for the first time as the party\u2019s candidate for the Catalan Presidency; previously he had been MP in the Spanish Parliament and Catalan Minister for Public Administration. He faces the challenge of bringing the party into a new era, while they will be probably be forced to step out of power and lose between 6 and 11 seats from the current 21 they have in the Catalan Parliament. They fear being overtaken by the Catalan People\u2019s Party as the third force in Catalonia.
The ERC is currently the 3rd party in the 135-seat Catalan Parliament. It has 21 seats (in the 2003 it reached its highest number with 23 seats). The 4th force, the Catalan branch of the People\u2019s Party (PPC), has only 14 seats. However, polls point to a heavy drop in ERC support. They risk losing, in the worst scenario, half of their seats, or even 1 more. Their best scenario, however, is not very positive for them either, as they may lose some 6 seats. The reasons for this drop are several: a general bad image of the 3-party governing coalition, internal problems in the party, with a change of leadership and the loss of main figures, and disappointment from most separatist supporters, which has made new pro-independence parties be founded.
The ERC will probably get between 10 and 15 seats, and could be undertaken by the conservative and Spanish Nationalist PPC. The PPC now has 14 seats, but polls say it could stay this way or reach, in their best scenario, 17 seats. In fact, Joan Puigcercós is making this threat one of his campaign axes. The ERC\u2019s candidate is delivering his campaign speeches without any notes, and with a lavalier microphone as to use his hands more expressively. His campaign also includes 2 inflatable dices with messages written on the sides: One with the ERC colours and proposals, and the other with the PPC and threats painted on the sides. Puigcercós is suggesting that if the PPC gets good results, the PPC could be decisive in the Catalan Parliament: their votes could help the most likely winner of the elections, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition, Convergència i Unió (CiU). The ERC is the party that wants to be decisive, as they were in 2003 and 2006.
The ERC\u2019s campaign often plays a game of being the same distance from the CiU as the PSC, putting its votes on the table with the party it agrees on the most. On one side, the ERC underlines its Left-Wing side, close to the PSC; on the other, its Catalan nationalism, close to the CiU. In 2003 and 2006, the Left-Wing side won, and 7 years of the 3-party governing coalition led by the PSC were possible. However, the ERC lost internal cohesion, as part of its base pays far more attention to its Catalan Nationalist proposals. Puigcercós is very aware of this and has already redirected the party towards this direction. Puigcercós dreams of being decisive and an agreement with CiU could be possible. There are 4 problems in his way:
- The CiU is reluctant to make this agreement as they consider that the ERC betrayed them in 2003 and 2006 by not making a governing coalition with them.
- The CiU now aims at governing alone if it is slightly possible.
- The ERC is weak, and despite wanting to be decisive in the next term, if the results are too poor and the PPC overtakes them, the CiU may not need their votes so desperately.
- The ERC does not monopolise on the Catalan separatism movement anymore.
The ERC was historically the Catalan independence party; it monopolised it in the last 30 years. The ERC was one of the oldest parties in Spain, founded in 1931, during the times of the Second Republic. It is anti-Monarchic, Left-Wing and pro-Catalan independence. However, since the Catalan nationalism social base is growing due to the push of Spanish nationalism (action and counter-action), so is the Catalan independence movement, which in the last years becomes more transversal. Now, there are also Right-Wing separatists for instance. A former ERC member and minister of the Catalan Government, Joan Carretero, formed Reagrupament, a Right-Wing and Populist pro-independence party. In addition, the former President of FC Barcelona\u2019s football club, Joan Laporta, also formed a Right-Wing and populist separatist party. Reagrupament and Laporta\u2019s party wanted to form a coalition, but a clash of egos stopped them. Laporta and Carretero may not get parliamentary representation, but they will steal a lot of votes to the ERC, making the ERC lose some seats. Finally, the CiU has also changed its traditional moderate stance. After the Catalan Statute of Autonomy\u2019s trimming and the consequent massive citizens demonstration, CiU members are now closer to separatism, although officially the coalition is not. However, some CiU isolated leaders have stated to they personally want Catalonia\u2019s independence to Spain.