Spanish election campaign kicks off with Catalan crisis in the spotlight

Parties hold first events as pro-independence Esquerra and Socialists top polls in Catalonia; far-right Vox set to make breakthrough in Spain

Image of the first event of Esquerra party, leading the polls in the four Catalonia constituencies, on April 12, 2019 (by Guillem Roset)
Image of the first event of Esquerra party, leading the polls in the four Catalonia constituencies, on April 12, 2019 (by Guillem Roset) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

April 12, 2019 12:42 AM

The April 28 Spanish election kicked off on Friday at midnight with several events being held by parties in the evening or coinciding with 12am, when they can officially ask citizens to vote for their candidacies.

The campaign is expected to partly revolve around Catalonia – it is the first vote in the Spanish parliament after the 2017 referendum and declaration of independence.

Spanish-wide parties have taken sides on the issue, with some displaying hardline stances against the pro-independence parties and government, while others calling for dialogue – with or without including self-determination in this dialogue.

Independence trial, far right and possible scenarios

In Catalonia itself, the fact that the election is happening as the trial to jailed politicalleaders and activists is underway is set to have its impact. In fact, two parties have included some of these incarcerated officials in their tickets.

One of the issues drawing most attention in Spain will be the potential breakthrough of far-right Vox party for the first time, as well as whether the three right-wing parties will amass the majority of the seats.

Other scenarios might be an unlikely left-wing majority, or a more likely hung parliament with the Catalan and Basque parties having the key to decide whether to keep Socialist Pedro Sánchez in power, or contributing to a deadlock.

In Catalonia, a far-left new coalition is trying to get representation, but all eyes are on Esquerra to see if they can claim victory for the first time in over 80 years – the Socialists are expected to have some chances to be the most voted political force in the country.

Parties running in the election

Pro-independence Esquerra, frontrunner in polls, has jailed leader Oriol Junqueras as top candidate, and held its first event in his hometown –the day he turned 50 and at the same times was denied freedom and holding events in prison.

The Socialists kicked off their campaign in Santa Coloma de Gramenet with Spanish minister Meritxell Batet topping the list in Barcelona. They are hopeful to be strong enough in Congress to stay in power –although they are far from a majority.

Ciutadans started its campaign in Barcelona, with its main candidate for this constituency, Inés Arrimadas. Until now she has been opposition head in Catalonia –now she moves to Madrid with a clear cut speech against independence.

Junts per Catalunya, with jailed leader Jordi Sànchez as its main candidate, began their campaign in Barcelona. Former president Puigdemont was among the officials who spoke –via proxy. Among their aims are preventing a new direct rule of Catalonia.

Like Ciutadans, the People's Party aim to oust the Socialists from power with a very clear speech against pro-independence parties. With Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo as its top candidate in Barcelona, suspending Catalonia's self-rule is in its plans.

En Comú Podem, the Catalan allies of left-wing Spanish Podemos, won the last two Spanish elections in Catalonia. Polls are now gloomier, but its candidate, Jaume Asens, aims to deny surveys. Until now he has been deputy mayor in Barcelona.

Front Republicà is a far-left alliance which has pledged to "blockade" the Congress if possible. Former MP Albano Dante Fachin is its leader. They aim to make a breakthrough, as well as far-right Vox party.