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Spain's electoral campaign starts with Catalonia's independence in the spotlight

The campaign for the upcoming Spanish elections has begun. On the 20th of December Spaniards will elect 558 of the 616 seats in Spanish bicameral Parliament: 350 for the Spanish Parliament and 208 for the Senate. The strategy regarding Catalonia and its push for independence is set to be a crucial battlefield - many parties have expressed their support or open opposition to Catalonia's aspirations and the reform of the Spanish Constitution to improve Spain's current territorial organisation has also been the focus of the main parties' programmes. Besides this debate, the upcoming elections are set to mark the end of the two-party system, represented by People's Party (PP) and Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which have alternated in the Spanish government since 1982. Anti-Catalan nationalism ‘Ciutadans’ and alternative left ‘Podemos’ have already shown their force and popular support in the past European, Regional and Local elections and are likely to burst into the Spanish Parliament, forcing the main parties to reach agreements. 

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04 December 2015 12:28 PM

by

Sara Prim

Barcelona (CNA).- On the 20th of December Spaniards will elect the 350 MPS in the Spanish Parliament and the 208 members of the Senate. The Election Day will take place less than three months after the 27-S Catalan elections, which represented a victory of the pro-independence forces. Many parties have expressed their support or open opposition to Catalonia's aspirations and Current Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy urged for "a common strategy amongst the parties" to answer to "Catalonia's defeat". Besides this debate, two new parties are set to burst into the Spanish Parliament: Anti-Catalan nationalism ‘Ciutadans’ and alternative left ‘Podemos’. They both have shown their force and popular support in the past European, Regional and Local elections and are likely to mark the end of the two-party system, represented by PP and PSOE, which have alternated in the Spanish government since 1982.  


Catalonia, a crucial battlefield

The strategy regarding Catalonia and its push for independence is set to be a crucial battlefield, especially after the victory of pro-independence cross-list party 'Junts Pel Sï' on the 27-S Catalan elections. Many Spanish parties have expressed their support or open opposition to Catalonia's aspirations and the reform of the Spanish Constitution to improve Spain's current territorial organisation has also been the focus of the main parties' programmes. With this purpose, Rajoy met with the main political forces running in the upcoming Spanish elections even before the campaign officially started. According to Rajoy, Catalonia is planning to “violate the law” and he therefore takes “responsibility for leading the answer to this defiance”.

Spanish Socialist Party PSOE’s leader, Pedro Sánchez agreed to work together with Spain’s government in order to “defend the Constitution, the national unity, the national sovereignty and the equality amongst Spanish citizens”. According to Sánchez, a reform of the Constitution is the only proposal which allows “to add and not to break” and accused President Mas of “wrapping himself” with democracy and then “breaking the law”.

Anti-Catalan nationalism ‘Ciutadans’ put itself at the service of Spain’s government to set any required “coordinated action”. Its leader, Albert Rivera, admitted to supporting PP’s strategy of acting “intelligently, effectively and preventing things from getting out of hand”. Both Rajoy and Rivera agreed that the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would imply the suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy, is one of the mechanisms that the government has at its disposal. However, Rajoy called for the use of other “previous mechanisms” and avoid applying article 155. Rivera agreed to “take it bit by bit” and admitted that “article 155 can’t be applied nor dismissed unless there are legal actions, such as a declaration of independence”.

‘Podemos’ leader Pablo Iglesias defined the Spanish Prime Minister’s position regarding Catalonia as “stagnant”. He expressed his support for holding a referendum in Catalonia and defended the recognition of Catalonia as a “nation”. “It’s not time for trenches nor bunkers. We bid for dialogue and for building bridges” he stated and accused Rajoy of endangering Spain’s unity by creating “a factory of pro-independence” with his “bunker” strategy.

“The way out from the Catalan conflict has to be dialogued and negotiated” stated Spanish Left IU’s leader, Alberto Garzón. He refused to back any agreement and accused both PP and Catalan liberal party CDC of “getting the popular classes away from the rest of Spain”. “They don’t want us to discuss the real problems, that’s why we won’t take part in PP and CDC’s theatre” he stated. Garzón called for a “multi-party debate” on how to deal with Catalonia’s push for independence and assured that the solution to Catalonia’s case “doesn’t have to go through the court”.

Pro-independence parties

The political panorama in Catalonia has changed after the 27-S elections, which were set to be a de facto plebiscite on independence. 'Junts Pel Sí', the cross-party list which won the elections and gathered together representatives from Catalan liberal party CDC, pro-independence left wing ERC, members of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and the pro-independence association of Spanish speakers, ‘Súmate’, amongst others, won't repeat its formula for the upcoming Spanish elections.

CDC, the party which runs the Catalan Government, will run for the Spanish Elections under another name 'Democràcia i Llibertat' (Democracy and Freedom). The aim is to reinforce their commitment with the pro-independence process in Catalonia, to emphasise the end of their coalition with Christian-democrats Unió after nearly 40 years and also to get rid of the corruption scandals which affect many CDC's members, including its founder and Catalan President for more than 30 years, Jordi Pujol. "We are a new, transparent and democratic party whose principles are antique but not antiquated" stated Democràcia and Llibertat member and former Parliament's President Núria de Gispert. "The only goal for the 20-D elections is to start negotiating Catalonia's disconnection from Spain" stated Democràcia i Llibertat and former Unió's member, Antoni Castellà.

According to many polls, pro-independence left wing ERC is likely to obtain one of its best results in the 20-D elections. The candidature will be led by Gabriel Rufián, from pro-independence association of Spanish speakers, ‘Súmate’ and member of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC). "We will be in Madrid to defend the Catalans' vote, to worry those who haven't worried and to tell those who have never lost that Catalonia has won" he stated.

Radical left pro-independence CUP, which obtained 10 MPS in the past Catalan elections, won't be running for the 20-D. "We don't feel interpellated to run for the Spanish elections. The Spanish Parliament is not the place to achieve independence" CUP's stated on a communiqué. "We will focus on building the Catalan Republic" they added.

The end of the two-party system

Two new parties are set to burst into the Spanish Parliament: Anti-Catalan nationalism ‘Ciutadans’ and alternative left ‘Podemos’. They both bid for renewing the politics and have strongly emphasised their fight against corruption. 'Ciutadans' and 'Podemos' already showed their force and popular support in the past European, Regional and Local elections and are likely to mark the end of the two-party system represented by PP and PSOE, which have alternated in the Spanish government since 1982.  

'Ciutadans' was the second force in the Catalan elections and obtained 25 MPS. His leader, Albert Rivera admitted his aspirations "to run for Spanish Prime Minister" rather than just having representation in the Spanish Parliament and have expressed firmly against Catalonia's independence. Many polls assure that 'Ciutadans' will certainly be decisive and that the absolute majority which currently has the PP is not likely to repeat.

Alternative left 'Podemos', in Catalonia 'En Comú Podem' expressed their commitment to “promote the celebration of a referendum with legal guarantees in Catalonia". Their members have also insisted on the necessity to reform the Spanish Constitution and promote the social change in Spain. 

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  • Image of 'Congreso de los Diputados', the Spanish Parliament (by ACN)

  • Image of 'Congreso de los Diputados', the Spanish Parliament (by ACN)