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Pro-independence parties lose majority in Catalan parliament

13 May 2024 5 minute read
The Catalan parliament building. Photo by sfgamchick is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Luke James

Pro-independence parties have lost the majority they have held in the Catalan parliament for twelve years as their supporters stayed at home amid fatigue caused by “division and repression”.

Three pro-independence parties – Esquerra Republicana, Junts Per Catalunya and La CUP – held a 13 seat majority in the last parliament after together winning more than 50% of the popular vote for the first time in 2021.

But the three won just 59 seats last night, leaving them nine short of a majority. Junts Per Catalunya, led by exiled former president Carles Puigdemont, gained three seats but Esquerra Republicana lost 13 seats and La CUP lost five – a much worse result than polls had predicted.

The only other pro-independence party to win seats was far-right Aliança Catalana, which will be represented in the Catalan parliament for the first time. Democratic pro-independence parties have promised not to work with them or accept their support.

Outperformed

Pro-union parties on the other hand outperformed expectations. The Socialists, which was already the biggest party in the parliament, won a further nine seats to take them to 41. It was the first time since the Spanish Civil War that they have won a plurality of votes and seats.

The biggest gains of the night were made by the Spanish conservatives, the Partido Popular. Starting the night as the smallest party in the Catalan parliament with just three seats, they ended as the fourth largest group with fifteen seats.

Both the Socialists and the Partido Popular benefited from the wipeout of the populist unionist party Ciudadanos, which topped the polls in 2017 but last night lost the six seats they won in 2021 and received fewer votes than animal welfare party PACMA.

Spanish far-right party Vox held its 11 seats while left-wing Comuns fell by two seats to six.

Pro-Spanish

La CUP’s lead candidate, Laia Estrada, said the results left Catalonia with “the most right-wing and pro-Spanish parliament ever.”

Turnout increased significantly in areas with the fewest pro-independence voters while it fell in the pro-independence heartlands of Girona and Lleida.

The pro-independence vote fell from 51% in 2021 to 42% yesterday, and since 2017 Esquerra, Junts per Catalunya and La CUP have lost almost a million votes combined.

Esquerra and Junts asked for polling hours to be extended following a breakdown in the train network, the quality of which had been a major campaign theme.

But the real reason for the poor turnout among pro-independence supporters was fatigue and divisions, according to Aleix Sarri i Camargo of Junts per Catalunya.

“The last seven years have been very hard,” he told Nation.Cymru. “When you face repression, it creates divisions, which is one of the reasons why they apply repressions to a movement.
“And it is obvious there have been divisions in the pro-independence camp during the last few years.”

These elections were called earlier than necessary because of that division. Junts per Catalunya pulled out of a coalition government led by Esquerra Republicana over differences in strategy on how to achieve independence.

Last night Carles Puigdemont said he was “ready to build bridges” with Esquerra to form a new government.

Tripartite government

A more realistic option would be a left-wing tripartite government between the Socialists, Esquerra and Comuns, who together hold the 68 seats needed for a majority.

“We call on all left-wing forces to build together this government that Catalonia needs and deserves,” said Jéssica Albiach of Comuns.

Esquerra Republicana were junior coalition partners to the Socialists twice between 2003 and 2010.

But Pere Aragonès, current Catalan president, announced Esquerra will go into opposition and challenged Junts to form a government with the Socialist party.

That prospect seems unlikely if not impossible. Sarri i Camargo, an adviser to Puigdemont, called Illa “the most pro-Spanish Socialist Catalan party that we have ever had.”

“I think more than the process of independence, a government led by Salvador Illa would have consequences for the future of Catalan identity,” he said.

Socialist leader Salvador Illa is though the most popular option to become the next president among Catalans, with 27% preferring him compared to 17% who want Carles Puigdemont.

After arriving at the Socialist victory party to the Blair-era Labour anthem Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream, Illa confirmed he would put himself forward to be the next president of Catalonia.

“Catalans have decided to start a new stage, whatever they think and whatever language they speak, wherever they live and wherever they’re from,” he said. “I assume this responsibility.”

Fresh elections are possible but Illa could also choose to lead a minority government, according to Professor Jesús Palomar i Baget of the University of Barcelona.

“I’m not among those people who think there will be another set of elections,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a government, even if it’s a minority one and has a lot of difficulties.”

On the future prospects for the independence ‘process’, he added: “The process won’t stop because there’s a Socialist government but it will set it back in the mid-term.

“If the independence projects disappear from the government programme, it will be more difficult to make that demand visible.”


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Richard E
Richard E
1 minute ago

A factual review but sadly not showing the full picture of the result. The Catalyna electorate is very mature and fluid in knowing where to go. Parties of all types are adaptable and reflect shifts in thought far more than here in Cymru Fach. The Socialist Party has certainly not won anything – indeed no party has won or lost with each having sub coalitions based on personalities and what it thinks of Madrid . I have elected friends in all the main groupings but none of these folk are in any of the groupings that they originated in yet… Read more »

Last edited 49 seconds ago by Richard E

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