Voting underway in Catalonia

Long queues at polling stations in the morning in an atypical and uncertain election

Ballot box ahead of the Catalan election (by Blanca Blay)
Ballot box ahead of the Catalan election (by Blanca Blay) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 21, 2017 08:53 AM

The December 21 Catalan election has already started. Around 5.5 million citizens can already cast their ballots from 9am this morning and they will be able to do so until 8pm. More than 2,500 polling stations all around the country are open waiting for Catalans to exercise their right to vote. In the first hours of voting, many queues were seen at polling stations across Catalonia. 

Turnout is expected to increase up to a record-breaking figure of around 80%, but the estimations will start to be facts from 1pm. At this time, the first voter turnout will be released, while the second one will be at 6pm, two hours before the polling stations close. These figures will be compared to the 2015 Catalan election and will show what the trend is. While at 8pm an exit poll is published by Grupo Godó media corporation, citizens will have to wait until around 10pm to have more precise knowledge about the final election results. So far the results are difficult to call, because polls show uncertainty on whether pro-independence parties will keep the majority in the chamber. 

Why the election is atypical

This is definitely also an atypical election. It has been called by the Spanish government and not the Catalan one for the first time. Right after the Catalan parliament declared independence on October 27, Mariano Rajoy’s cabinet responded by immediately implementing the so-called “nuclear option,” Article 155, which included the immediate dissolution of the Catalan government and calling snap elections for December 21. 

The Catalan government members in Brussels or prison

In the aftermath that followed, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and half of his ousted government traveled to Brussels, allegedly not to “evade” justice but instead for lack of faith in due process and a fair treatment in Spain. Indeed, the Spanish Attorney General announced it would be filing a lawsuit against the Catalan executive, as well as the Catalan parliament president and bureau members who allowed the vote in the chamber to take place.

Eight government members who remained in Catalonia were sent to prison without bail on November 2. Meanwhile, the members of Catalan parliament were released on bond, but not after parliament president Carme Forcadell spent a night in prison. Then, after 32 days, on December 4, six of the incarcerated members of the Catalan government were released. Yet, vice president Oriol Junqueras and Home Affairs minister Joaquim Forn, along with grassroots leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart still remain in jail.

One of the most contended issues in this election has been some candidate’s telling absence from the campaign trail. Some joined after having spent time in prison, but others still—notably, Puigdemont, Junqueras, and Sànchez—remain behind bars, or exiled abroad.