Spain’s official electoral campaign kicks off with Catalonia in the spotlight

According to polls, Catalonia might be essential to ensure the absolute majority to the People’s Party (PP) or to save the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) from getting its worst results ever. The Socialists risk loosing more than a third of its seats in Catalonia while the PP, far from winning in Catalonia, could get its best results. Catalan nationalists ‘Convergència i Unió’, who are the third largest group in the Spanish Parliament, could win the elections in Catalonia, ending the ten Socialist Party victories in a row in these elections.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

November 4, 2011 12:05 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- The official campaign for the next Spanish elections begins this Thursday night with many looking at Catalonia, which is set to be a crucial battlefield. On November 20th Spaniards will elect the new Spanish Parliament, which will then elect the new President of the Spanish Government, equivalent to Prime Minister. All polls indicate that the People’s Party (PP) will win the elections in Spain, and will very likely get an absolute majority. In addition, the same polls indicate that the Socialist Party (PSOE), the party currently running the Spanish Government, might face its worst defeat ever. The votes from Catalonia, on one hand, are essential to guarantee the PP’s absolute majority. On the other hand,  a significant vote decrease could mean a humiliating defeat for the Socialists. Catalonia has always been a place where the PP gets poor results, however it has seen significant gains in the last months. Despite that, it is far from being the top party, however MPs from Catalonia might ensure the PP an absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament. Besides, Catalonia has traditionally been a certain winner for the Socialist Party in the Spanish elections. The Socialists might still win in Catalonia, however they might loose between 25% and 40% of the seats. Loosing 40% of the seats in Catalonia would drop the PSOE results in the entire Spain and they could get the worst results in three decades. In addition, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) could significantly improve its results, and some polls predict they could even win in Catalonia. If the PP finally does not get an absolute majority, CiU’s MPs could be key for the stability of a hypothetical PP government.

In the coming Spanish elections, voting trends in Catalonia are crucial due to its demographic weight but especially due to the Catalan political landscape, different from the rest of Spain. Catalonia is not a bipartisan country, but there are up to five parties that play a significant role in politics. However, two are particularly important, and none of the two are the People’s Party, which is very likely to win in the rest of Spain with an absolute majority. In Catalonia, the two main parties are the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU) and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). In the Spanish elections, the PSC/PSOE has always won in Catalonia; ten elections in a row. However, CiU could win this time according to some polls. In any case, even if the PSC/PSOE still wins, it would loose between 25% to 40% of the seats it won in Catalonia in 2008. Besides, the PP could repeat the good results it got in 2000, with José Maria Aznar’s absolute majority.

The People’s Party

It is in Catalonia where the People’s Party (PP) may have guaranteed the absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament predicted by all the polls. The PP, which has traditionally been a secondary party in Catalonia, would still be far from winning this time but could increase by 50% the number of MPs, passing from 8 to 12 MPs. Therefore it could consolidate its position as the third party in Catalonia. In addition, it would significantly reduce the distance with the first two, the PSC/PSOE and CiU, in this type of elections.

The Socialist Party

In Catalonia the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) could loose 40% of its MPs, according to the worst polls for their interests. Currently, out of the 47 MPs elected in Catalonia, 25 are Socialist. However, in the next elections, some polls indicate they could get between 19 and 15 seats. They might still win in Catalonia, but they would loose large support. The Socialist party has won all the Spanish elections in Catalonia, 10 elections in the last 34 years. In the 2004 and 2008 elections, the difference between the MPs the Socialist won in Catalonia and those the PP won are the number of seats that PSOE achieved for a majority over the PP in Spain. In other words, taking the electoral results for Spain as a whole, but excluding Catalonia, the PP would have won in 2004 and, especially, in 2008, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero would not have been Prime Minister. Currently 17 MPs separate the PSC/PSOE to the PP in Catalonia, while only 15 MPs separate both parties in the Spanish Parliament.

Catalan Nationalists

Catalonia is not a bipartisan country and there are other parties that play a significant role, in particular the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU), which currently runs the Catalan Government and most of the main town halls in Catalonia. CiU is currently the main party in Catalonia looking at the results of the Catalan and municipal elections. In the Spanish elections, CiU only runs in Catalonia, presenting electoral lists in the four Catalan provinces. The constituency for the Spanish elections is the province, an administrative division between the Autonomous Communities and the municipalities. Spain is divided in 50 provinces, four of each correspond to the Catalan territory (Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona).

Polls indicate that CiU will increase its current representation of 10 MPs in the Spanish Parliament and could get between 12 and 14 MPs. However an internal poll released by CiU predicted reaching 16 MPs. This last prediction would be close to the results CiU was getting in the late 1980s and the 1990s, when it was getting between 18 and 16 MPs.

Smaller parties

Two other parties from Catalonia traditionally get representation in the Spanish Parliament. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party ‘Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya’ (ERC) will try to keep its current 3 MPs. After many months of internal problems and an entire renovation of the party leadership, ERC goes to the elections in coalition with another pro-Catalan independence party, ‘Reagrupament’, which grew out of ERC itself. Despite going together, it is not clear whether they will repeat the same results as 2008 and could loose one or even two MPS. In 2000, ERC had only 1 MP in the Spanish Parliament, but in 2004, after four years of absolute majority of the People’s Party, ERC got an historical result of 8 MPs.

The other small party in Catalonia that always gets representation is the Catalan Green Socialist Party ‘Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds’ (ICV), which forms a stable electoral coalition with the Communist ‘Esquerra Unida i Alternativa’ (EUA), the Catalan branch of ‘Izquierda Unida’. ICV-EUiA won only one seat in 2008. Now polls indicate they are likely to repeat the result, although it is not impossible they get a second MP, as they did in 2004. ICV-EUiA goes together with ‘Izquierda Unida’ in the Spanish Parliament, forming a group of only 3 MPs.