Party Review – the Spanish Nationalist People’s Party (PP) focuses on stopping the “independence delirium”
As opposed to the rest of Spain, the PP is a small party within Catalonia. In the last Catalan elections, they got their best results ever, increasing from 14 to 18 seats in the 135-seat Catalan Parliament and obtaining 12.37% of the votes. In the last elections, the Catalan branch of the PP , led by Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, focused on immigration and the economic crisis. Now, while they are running the Spanish Government and have negotiated many austerity measures in Catalonia, the PP is focusing on fighting the “independence delirium”, as they call it. All its leaders, including Rajoy, are participating intensively in the campaign. The PP presents itself as the “useful vote” to stop Catalonia’s self-determination process, as they think of Spain as not being a pluri-national state. Polls give them between 16 and 19 MPs and they could become the second largest party in the Catalan Parliament.
Barcelona (ACN).- As opposed to the rest of Spain, the PP is a small party within Catalonia. In the last Catalan elections, they got their best results ever, increasing from 14 to 18 seats in the 135-seat Catalan Parliament and obtaining an historical 12.37% of the votes. In the last elections, the Catalan branch of the People\u2019s Party, led by Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, focused on immigration, the economic crisis and the use of Spanish language in Catalonia. By that time, in November 2010, the conservative and Spanish nationalist PP was not yet running the Spanish Government and was using Catalonia as a testing ground for its campaign, trying to turn its traditional marginalisation in Catalonia around. Now, in the 2012 Catalan elections, the PP has been running the Spanish Government for a year; it has passed budget cuts and an unpopular labour market reform, which has not stopped unemployment from increasing in the short-run. Furthermore, it has negotiated austerity measures with the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) \u2013 which runs the Catalan Government \u2013 affecting the public services and social protection mechanisms used by many voters. Hence, the PP is mainly focusing its current electoral campaign on the Catalan independence debate, which they absolutely oppose stating it is a \u201Cdelirium\u201D. They do not consider Catalonia to be a nation and therefore they consider Spain not to be a pluri-national state, despite the fact that the Spanish Constitution literally states that \u2018Spain is formed by nationalities and regions\u2019. However, they use the Spanish Constitution, which was approved three years after Franco\u2019s death and three years before the Coup d\u2019État that shaped the current Autonomous Communities map, to deny Catalonia a self-determination referendum.
The PP presents itself as the \u201Cuseful vote\u201D to stop Catalonia\u2019s self-determination process and preserve Spanish unity. Most of the PP leaders throughout Spain, including the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, are participating intensively in the Catalan election campaign, which is something quite unusual. They are addressing their campaign to traditional CiU voters who have doubts about Catalonia\u2019s independence and to the Catalans who were born or have their parents born in other parts of Spain. The PP is centring all of its campaign on depicting a dreadful economic and social scenario if Catalonia became independent, with pensions not guaranteed, higher unemployment figures, people obliged to change their Spanish surnames, a Catalan society broken into two antagonistic halves and an internationally-isolated Catalan state separated by border controls. They are also addressing hard attacks to the CiU and particularly its leader, the incumbent Catalan President, Artur Mas. They are accusing Mas of being \u201Cirresponsible\u201D and are using corruption accusations launched by pro-PP media to spread doubts on Mas\u2019 honesty. In addition, they are also using some immigration-related arguments that worked quite well for them in the last elections, such as obliging foreigners to sign an immigration contract or denying social grants to foreigners who cannot prove at least 18 consecutive months of continuous residence in Spain. Polls indicate that the PP would obtain similar results to those in past elections or even suffer a slight decrease. Surveys give them between 16 and 19 MPs. However, since the number of MPs for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) is likely to plummet, the PP could become the second largest party in the Catalan Parliament, even if it stagnates or loses one or two seats.
Alícia Sánchez-Camacho has given the PP a central role in Catalan politics
In 2008, Alícia-Sanchez-Camacho took control of the Catalan People\u2019s Party after years of leadership changes and bad results. In addition, she tried to put behind them the bad image the PP had in Catalonia after the anti-Catalan campaigns it had run in the mid-2000s, when PP leaders (including Mariano Rajoy) raised signatures against the reform of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and were sympathetic to boycotts on Catalan products. Sánchez-Camacho has been trying to convince her party colleagues in the rest of Spain not to use anti-Catalan feelings to feed Spanish nationalism, which the PP represents. In addition, she focused on trying to attract the residents of working-class neighbourhoods, affected by high unemployment figures and where social services and grants are shared with immigrants. In 2010, she put immigration issues upfront, obtaining the best results ever in Catalonia, also because of the erosion in support for the Socialist Governments in Barcelona and Madrid. In fact, as in the rest of Spain, the PP is trying to attract middle-class voters and people from working-class neighbourhoods, who are disappointed by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and, in Catalonia, from the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC).
In addition, after the 2010 Catalan elections, Sánchez-Camacho offered the PP\u2019s support to the CiU, which was running the Catalan Government but was lacking a few MPs to get an absolute majority in the Catalan Parliament. Sánchez-Camacho was presenting the PP as a guarantee for passing the austerity measures in order to reduce the high public deficit left by the previous Catalan Government run by a left-wing three-party coalition, chaired by the PSC. From early 2011 to mid-2012, the PP and the CiU negotiated the Catalan budgets for 2011 and 2012, as well as additional austerity measures. Following the PP\u2019s victory in the Spanish elections in November 2011 and the consequent cabinet chaired by Mariano Rajoy, Sánchez-Camacho was presenting herself as a sort of ambassador of Catalan interests in Madrid and as a link between the Catalan and Spanish Governments. However, this role soon became obsolete when the tensions between both executives rose, mainly because of financial issues and the centralist measures approved by the PP. In addition, after September\u2019s 1.5 million-people demonstration asking for Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain and the Catalan President\u2019s reaction, the PP and the CiU broke the last possibilities for understanding in Catalonia and Sánchez-Camacho shifted her role from cooperation to opposition.
Attacks on the CiU and Artur Mas
Immediately after September\u2019s demonstration, the People\u2019s Party built a front against Catalonia\u2019s self-determination process and the Catalan President\u2019s leadership of it. In the campaign rallies, Sánchez-Camacho often accuses Mas of \u201Cpresenting himself as a Messiah\u201D and says that \u201CCatalonia does not need a Messiah\u201D. She states that the CiU leaders, \u201Cwho never step down from their official cars\u201D she adds, are independence supporters, but the rest of the party members are not. According to the PP, the CiU is magnifying the support for independence, being in an \u201Cindependence delirium\u201D. Sánchez-Camacho and Rajoy, who is participating in many rallies in Catalonia during the two-week official campaign, accuse Mas of being \u201Cirresponsible\u201D and \u201Chaving abandoned his responsibilities\u201D as Catalan President. Rajoy lamented \u201Cthe great damage\u201D to \u201Cthe image of Spain\u201D that Catalonia\u2019s debate is producing. In addition, the Spanish PM stated that \u201CMas is a torpedo to the flotation line of the European project\u201D, as he is fostering instability in Spain in the current times, affecting the entire Eurozone. Rajoy added that \u201Cthe economy would recover sooner\u201D if the debate about independence was not on the table.
The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, accused Mas of \u201Cwanting to divide Catalan society\u201D. According to her, Mas \u201Cuses the manners of TV preachers\u201D to push for a \u201Claboratory debate\u201D, which is invented, and that may provoke the situation where \u201Cno salaries enter homes, pensions are not guaranteed and our sons do not find jobs\u201D. In addition, Sánchez-Camacho stated that \u201Cthe independence challenge\u201D to Spanish unity \u201Cslows down foreign investment\u201D. Many PP leaders constantly repeat that an independent Catalonia would be expelled from the European Union, the Shengen Space and the Euro, being internationally isolated.
Using corruption scandals
However, the hardest attacks refer to corruption accusations. Last Friday, nine days before the elections, the Spanish nationalist newspaper El Mundo accused top CiU leaders of having secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The main people accused were the Catalan President, Artur Mas; Mas\u2019 father (who died last year); the former Catalan President and historical CiU leader, Jordi Pujol; and one of the current CiU leaders and son of the former Catalan President, Oriol Pujol. The money in these bank accounts was said to have come from corrupt deals between the CiU and construction companies, according to the Madrid-based newspaper. El Mundo, which is often in line with PP\u2019s interests, based its accusation on a secret draft that would have been obtained from the Spanish Police. However, after an internal investigation that lasted 5 days, the Spanish Police stated that the draft does not exist. In addition, according to the Spanish Home Affairs Ministry, some of El Mundo\u2019s information came from other reports, but none of them mention the incumbent Catalan President and CiU leader and many information bits are based on Internet rumours and anonymous letters.
However, the Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, stated that the Spanish Tax Agency will investigate Mas. The CiU leader denied the accusations from the first day, as did the other people involved, who have all filed a lawsuit against El Mundo for defamation.In addition, Mas accused the PP and the Spanish Government of using \u201Cthe State sewers\u201D to \u201Cdestroy him\u201D and what he represents. He also accused the Spanish establishment to play \u201Cdirty games\u201D and try to interfere with the Catalan elections. The Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, stated that it is a \u201Cfalse\u201D idea that the Spanish Government and the PP is building a defamation campaign against the CiU and Mas. Rajoy added that \u201Cif somebody has a problem, they should not transfer it to somebody else\u201D. The CiU asked the Spanish Home Affairs Minister to provide the Spanish Parliament with explanations of the internal investigation and the existence of such a draft. On Wednesday, after it was known that the draft did not exist, the Spanish Finance Minister stated that \u201Cit is those who have secret accounts in Switzerland who have to provide an explanation for the Spanish society\u201D and not the Spanish Government. In any case, the PP is not directly accusing Mas or the CiU, but is using the case to spread doubts about their honesty. In fact, on Wednesday Sánchez-Camacho stated that \u201CMas is asking for a blank cheque in the shape of an absolute majority\u201D in order to have \u201Cabsolute power to act with impunity\u201D.
Some of the PP\u2019s electoral proposals include eliminating the drug prescription fee and the tourist tax approved by the Catalan Government with their support. In addition, they propose the elimination of what they call \u201Cidentity subsidies\u201D for Catalan-speaking media and civil society organisations promoting the Catalan language and culture. They also propose taking away all the non-basic social grants for foreigners who cannot prove at least 18 consecutive months of residence in Spain. In fact, they have reused the immigration-related measures from their last programme, such as obliging all foreigners to sign an \u201Cimmigration contract\u201D. If this contract is broken, for example if they lost their job and did not find a new one, they could be deported from Spain. In this line, they would deport all foreigners who committed a felony. In addition, they would forbid the use of burqas and niqabs. Finally, artificial insemination, sex change procedures and chemical or surgical abortions would all be excluded from the public health system.