Catalonia’s pro-independence parties consolidated their majority in the regional parliament in Sunday’s elections, reaching around 51% of the vote. It was the first time that separatist acronyms exceeded 50%.
One of the richest regions in Spain, Catalonia experienced one of the most serious political crises in 2017, when a separatist plebiscite garnered 90.09% of the vote in favor of the separation of the territory, during of a day marked by police violence.
The victory of the independence movement was not recognized, however, the plebiscite was declared illegal and, two years later, the separatist leaders were convicted of sedition by the Spanish courts. The region of 7.5 million inhabitants, whose main city is Barcelona, saw its autonomy suspended for almost seven months by the central government of Madrid.
Despite the advance of the separatists in this Sunday’s election, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – unlike independence – obtained the highest number of votes (23%), which earned it 33 of the 135 seats, nearly double the previous 17. The party’s candidate for the Catalan presidency is Salvador Illa, a former health minister who left the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic to run for office.
Performance may indicate greater chances of a dialogue with the federal government, but Illa’s chances of forming a government may be hampered by separatist control of parliament. During the campaign, the separatist parties ruled out the possibility of supporting the CPS in a new administration.
The Catalan left-wing Republican (ERC) ended the election as the main pro-independence force, with 21% of the vote and 33 seats, followed by Juntos por Catalunya (JxCat) – which is expected to win 32 seats. With the 9 seats of the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), on the left, they reach 54% of regional deputies. This Monday morning, separatist leaders spoke during a new popular consultation on the independence of Catalonia.
The elections were marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to strong abstentions. About 53% of registered voters voted, up from a participation rate of 79% in the 2017 election. Analysts believe that concern over the coronavirus may have favored the separatist parties, whose mobilization has been the strongest.
The radical right-wing Vox party will for the first time have representatives from the Catalan parliament, with 11 seats, the fourth highest number of deputies.