The official campaign for the Catalan elections starts focused on the independence debate
Elections for the Catalan Parliament, which will elect the next President of the Catalan Government, are to be held on the 25th of November. The two-week electoral campaign has started, with Catalonia’s independence as the main topic of debate, while opposition parties are trying to put the budget cuts and the recovery from the economic crisis upfront. On Thursday, minutes before midnight, political parties officially kicked off the campaign, although the race started a month and a half ago, when the Catalan President, Artur Mas, called for early elections. Surveys indicate that Mas’ party, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), will win the elections again, with improved results and close to an absolute majority. Catalonia’s political map may change with the Socialist Party likely to drop.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Thursday, minutes before midnight, political parties officially kicked off the campaign for the next Catalan elections, to be held on the 25th of November. However, the race started a month and a half ago, when the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, called for early elections after the 1.5 million demonstration asking for Catalonia’s independence and the Spanish Prime Minister’s refusal to negotiate a specific fiscal agreement. Since then, Catalonia’s political debate has been clearly focused on potential independence from Spain, although opposition parties are trying to put the budget cuts and the recovery from the economic crisis upfront. Surveys indicate that Mas’ party, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), will win the elections again, with improved results and close to an absolute majority. Mas is asking for “exceptional support” from the voters in order to back Catalonia’s self-determination process, which would lead to the organisation of an independence referendum within the next four years. In addition, Catalonia’s political map might change if the likely fall in support for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) is finally confirmed by the ballots. The PSC, which opposes independence and proposes a federal Spain, controlled most of the Catalan public institutions between 2003 and 2010, but in the next elections it might become Catalonia’s third or even fourth party. The People’s Party (PP), which currently runs the Spanish Government and is completely opposed to the self-determination process, might get similar results as previously but become the second political force in the Catalan Parliament. Furthermore, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), might improve its results by 40 to 70%. However, the populist and radical independence party Solidaritat (SI), which had 4 MPs, might not get enough support to enter the Catalan Parliament, while the radical Left-Wing independence coalition CUP, which is running for the first time in these elections, might get up to 3 MPs. Also pushed by the independence debate, the populist and anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s) might double its results and get between 6 and 7 MPs, although it would remain Catalonia’s sixth largest party. Finally, the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), which supports the self-determination process and has been the most vocal party against the budget cuts, would get the same or slightly improve on the previous results.
Mas (CiU) asks for an “exceptional majority” to back the self-determination process
The incumbent President of the Catalan Government and CiU’s candidate for re-election, Artur Mas, asked for “exceptional support” in order to guarantee that “Catalonia’s future is decided by the Catalans and not by the Spanish Government, the Constitutional Court or the Spanish Parliament”. In CiU’s first rally of the official campaign, Mas asked the voters to give him “the strength” to face the People’s Party’s absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament and the “State’s oligarchies who are acting without consideration”. Polls forecast CiU’s victory, improving its results from the 2010 elections and being close to or even getting an absolute majority. In front of 2,000 people with Catalan official and independence flags as well as European Union ones, the CiU candidate also requested the citizens’ support to “go abroad and explain the Catalan case” to the international community. Furthermore, Mas also addressed those citizens who traditionally do not vote for CiU; he asked them “to lend” their vote to CiU for these elections, with the promise that he would “put the country’s interests first, before the party’s”.
Navarro (PSC) warns that “votes for the CiU and PP go directly to the budget cuts”
The candidate for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), who became PSC’s Secretary General 11 months ago, started the official electoral campaign by focusing on the austerity measures and the budget cuts. Navarro is placing himself as a third option between what he defines as CiU’s support for independence and the PP’s centralism; he opposes independence and proposes a federal Spain. In fact, the PSC’s electoral motto is just one word “federalism”, assuming de facto that the relations between Catalonia and Spain are the campaign’s main debate. However, at the same time, Navarro is trying to focus the debate on the budget cuts and their social impact. Therefore, in the first campaign rally – held in Terrassa (Greater Barcelona), of which he is the Mayor – he warned citizens that “votes for the CiU and PP go directly to the budget cuts”. In these elections the PSC risks plummeting support and dropping from the current 28 MPs in the 135-seat Catalan Parliament (which are already its worst results ever) to only 19 or even 15 seats.
Sánchez-Camacho (PP) tries to mobilise “the silent majority” and get their support against independence
The candidate for the PP, which runs the Spanish Government with an absolute majority in Madrid, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, is focusing her campaign on stopping the Catalan self-determination process. In the town of Castelldefels (Greater Barcelona), which is one of the two large town halls the PP runs in Catalonia, Sánchez-Camacho addressed what she considered to be “the silent majority” that wants Catalonia to remain within Spain. She claimed that voting for the PP is a “useful vote” for halting “CiU’s independence drift” and “the PSC’s disorientation”. The PP’s candidate asked Catalans “to think of the future of their children and grand-children” and “not to split forces” in order to stop Catalonia’s self-determination process. Sánchez-Camacho stated that “those who do not want a border in the Pyrenees and another one along the Ebro River” should vote for the PP. Polls predict that the PP might get the same number of MPs as in 2010, or gain or lose just one MP. However, despite having around 18 MPs, it could become the second largest party in the Catalan Parliament provided that in the end the PSC gets the dramatic results forecasted by the surveys.
Herrera (ICV-EUiA) asks for “an exceptional vote” as “the situation is also exceptional and a social emergency”
The candidate for the Catalan Green Socialists and Communists (ICV-EUiA), Joan Herrera, stated that Catalonia is currently facing “a social emergency”. Herrera stated that because of this “exceptional” situation, he asks citizens for “an exceptional vote” and to support ICV-EUiA, which has been the most vocal party against austerity measures and budget cuts. In the town of Cornellà de Llobregat (Greater Barcelona), in the industrial Baix Llobregat County, where ICV-EUiA gets its best results, Herrera heavily criticised the “indecent” budget cuts implemented by CiU in their two years of running the Catalan Government. Despite supporting Catalonia’s self-determination process, ICV-EUiA is focusing its campaign on the fight against budget cuts, appealing to its traditional support base. In 2010 they obtained 10 MPs. According to the latest surveys they could get between 10 and 11 MPs. However, they are likely to become the fifth largest party in the Catalan Parliament once again, as the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) is very likely to significantly improve results and overtake them.
Junqueras (ERC) proposed “a new country open to everybody in which we will make the decisions about our future”
The new leader of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), Oriol Junqueras, who took over the party leadership a year ago, kicked off the official campaign in the Greater Barcelona town of Sant Vicenç dels Horts, of which he is Mayor. Junqueras claimed Catalans’ right to decide on their own future by “building a new state, in which everybody would be represented, no matter where they are born or the language they speak”. “We want a new country open to everybody in which we will make the decisions about our future”, he stated in front of a cheering crowd. Furthermore, Junqueras said they hope to become the second party in the Catalan Parliament, overtaking the PSC, PP and ICV-EUiA. In the last elections they obtained very poor results: 10 MPs, far below the 21 seats they got in 2006. Now polls forecast between 14 and 17 MPs for ERC, which means that if the PSC and the PP obtain the poorest results predicted by the surveys, ERC might have the chance to become the second largest group in the Parliament.
López Tena (SI) puts his party as a “guarantee for independence”
The candidate for the populist and radical independence party Solidaritat (SI), Alfons López Tena, stated that his party is the “guarantee” for Catalonia’s independence, as he argued that ERC and CiU will negotiate with the Spanish Government. In fact, SI proposes a unilateral declaration for independence and he said that he will without a doubt push for a Catalan independent state to be a reality by 2014. In 2010, the recently-created SI obtained 4 MPs. Now most of the polls leave them out of the Catalan Parliament. Instead, the radical Left-Wing independence coalition CUP might obtain up to 3 MPs, while it is the first time they are running in the Catalan elections.
Rivera (C’s) asks Mas “not to build walls” 23 years after Berlin wall was pulled down
The leader of the populist and anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s), Albert Rivera, heavily criticised Catalonia’s self-determination process. C’s is totally opposed to Catalonia’s independence and its electoral motto is “better united”. In its first electoral event of the campaign, held in Barcelona, Rivera asked the incumbent Catalan President “not to build walls and raise borders” within Europe, while he remarked that 23 years ago the Berlin wall was pulled down. Rivera also criticised the “particracy” he thinks runs Catalonia and “hides” corruption scandals. In 2010 C’s obtained 3 MPs. Now it could double this number of seats, getting between 6 and 7 MPs, which means that they would have their own parliamentary group for the first time.