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Self-determination or self-rule suspension? Catalan parties at odds ahead of general election

Pro-independence bloc will hope for more success after record elections in April


08 November 2019 09:32 PM


Oliver Little|Barcelona

The eight main Catalan parties running in the November 10 election offer much scope for political division.

The pro-independence bloc of left-wing Esquerra, Junts per Catalunya and Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) is matched by the right-wing triad of Ciutadans, People's Party and Vox, with the Socialists (PSC) also on the unionist side, and En Comú Podem standing in-within blocs.

ERC, JxCat, and CUP all favor self-determination and amnesty for the independence leaders sentenced to 9-13 years in jail for their role in the 2017 referendum, whilst PPC, Cs, and Vox wish to suspend Catalonia's autonomy through the invocation of the controversial Article 155 of Spain's constitution. 

The PSC favors dialogue within the law but rejects a referendum, whilst ECP also favors heading to the negotiation table to come to a political pact which can lead to a referendum. 

Here is a rundown of what each party in Catalonia stands for and can hope for in the election on November 10.

Esquerra: further success expected after historic April election

Left-wing Esquerra, the party of jailed leader and former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, can expect more success in November after a historic result in the April 28 election as it gained 15 seats in Spanish Congress. 

In the party's campaign, candidate Gabriel Rufián has condemned the sentence of the political leaders as ''unfair'' and criticized Spain’s Socialist head of government Pedro Sánchez’s handling of the independence crisis. Rufián urged people to support Esquerra as it bids for the right to self-determination via referendum and weaving a great alliance for a political agreement on amnesty for the jailed leaders.

They promise to ''guarantee'' defense of rights and freedom of citizenship and to provide a ''stronghold'' when it comes to closing down the path to the extreme-right.

Junts per Catalunya: recognizing right to self-determination through dialogue

Junts per Catalunya will hope to bounce back from a small drop of eight seats to seven in the April 28 election.

In a 112-page program, leader Laura Borràs puts dialogue first, hoping to resolve the political conflict between Catalonia and the State through a ''bilateral relationship that recognizes the right to self-determination.''

She also believes that amnesty, leading to the exceptional pardoning of the political prisoners is one of the ''logical solutions'' to the root of the political conflict between Spain and Catalonia. 

The party is led by former president Carles Puigdemont from his exile in Belgium and his successor Quim Torra from the Catalan government headquarters in Barcelona.

Popular Unity Candidacy: self-determination from irreformable Spanish state

Perhaps hoping to capitalize on the recent unrest in Catalonia, the most extreme faction within the Catalan independence movement, radical anti-capitalist CUP, is contesting a Spanish election for the first time.

The party proposes a ''political intervention program,'' in which it plans to direct its primary focus ''outside of the institutional framework'' of an ''irreformable Spanish state,'' and thus blocking any political stability for the Spanish government.

The party backs the right to self-determination and total amnesty of the political leaders, just as its counterparts, but also seeks to form an independent republic along with the so-called Catalan countries - territories in which the Catalan language or variants of it are spoken.

En Comú Podem - release of leaders and stable dialogue the way forward

Jaume Asens's ECP had a slightly more unsuccessful showing at the last elections, dropping from 12 seats in Spanish Congress to just seven. 

Now, the party is hoping to win some of the lost seats back, condemning the sentence of the jailed leaders that has ''aggravated'' the political situation in Catalonia. They propose to release the leaders and to eliminate the crime of sedition from the criminal code.  

The party underlines the importance of ''reinforcing'' self-government and Catalan schools, the transferring of resources and pending investments. The party also wishes to review the system of the financing of autonomous regions. 

Asens's manifesto proposes to create ''frameworks for stable dialogue'' at a Catalan and State level, where they believe ''diversity of politics and of positions'' should be incorporated into the issue, leading to a new pact proposal between the two territories, in which the terms of a self-determination referendum should be re-established.

Catalan Socialist Party - dialogue within the law

Currently, the second biggest Catalan party in Spanish parliament, the PSC ran a successful campaign in April, winning 12 seats in Spanish Congress.

Led by president Pedro Sánchez in Spain, the leading candidate for Catalonia was former Spanish congress speaker Meritxell Batet

The Socialists’ manifesto is the same as the last, proposing ''dialogue within the law,'' and seeking to ''turn the page beyond confrontation and stalemate'' by ''tackling the definition of an integrative project with conviction and through politics.''

The party hopes to ''begin a new era'' and focus on reaching ''agreement and consensus around a common path.''

Catalan People's Party: road to redemption after worst election result ever

The April election brought the worst ever results for both the Spanish and Catalan People's Party. The PPC kept just one seat in Spanish Congress, losing five from the previous election. 

The right-wing party proposes sending president of the Catalan government Quim Torra a warning, in which he must ''fulfill his constitutional obligations,'' as a precautionary step before invoking Article 155 of the Constitution and suspending Catalonia's autonomy.

However, unlike their manifesto for the April 28 election, the PPC does not mention the Article of the Constitution that would suspend Catalonia's autonomy but instead refers to applying the national security law to Catalonia to ''avoid political inference'' in the actions of police. 

Measures introduced in the new manifesto are that the State recover its penitentiary powers - currently in the hands of the Generalitat de Catalunya - and introduce a total fulfillment clause for the leaders jailed for sedition. 

The party proposes to reform the Criminal Code, not only to introduce ''full compliance of sentences for convicts of rebellion or sedition,'' but also ''reinstating back the classification of the illegal referendum and the crime of improper rebellion.''

Ciutadans: immediate invocation of Article 155

Winning five seats in the April elections and five in the 2016 general election, Ciutadans proposes the immediate invocation of Article 155 to resolve the conflict.

In doing this, the party seeks to ''ensure the reestablishment of the Constitution in Catalonia" by restricting the powers of the Catalan government. The police would be under the command of the Spanish Interior Ministry, and the control of finances, currently held by the Generalitat de Catalunya, returned to the Spanish government. 

Cs proposes to clamp down on Catalan offices outside of the State, intending to close delegations abroad that ''act against the general interest of Spain,'' preventing subsidies ''to associations that pursue interests contrary to constitutional order.''  

While the manifesto does not specifically mention the sentence of the jailed leaders, it promises to ''update the crime of sedition'' in order to ''protect Spaniards from coup d'états in the 21st century.'' 

Vox: banning pro-independence parties

Far-right party Vox in Catalonia, who became a part of Spanish Congress for the first time in the April 28 election with one seat, take the most hardline stance with the Catalan situation. 

Proposing to invoke Article 155 just as right-wing counterparts do, the party also includes measures to declare a ''state of emergency in Catalonia,'' and will suspend Catalan autonomy until ''a non-palliative defeat of the coup and the clearance of civil and criminal responsibilities.''

They also wish to outlaw parties, associations, and NGOs that fight for the independence of Catalonia.

Vox favors a ''unitary'' state model with a single government and parliament, considering the autonomic system to be ''bankrupt,'' and has given more power to modern sovereignist tendencies. They propose to fight ''language policies or barriers of any kind.''


  • A polling station in Catalonia during the April 28, 2019 Spanish general election (by ACN)

  • A polling station in Catalonia during the April 28, 2019 Spanish general election (by ACN)