The Uncertain Path Forward in Post-Election Catalonia

The world was watching as voters hit the polls on November 25th in the most important regional elections in Catalonia since the return of democracy in Spain. Seen by many as a referendum on Catalan independence, the election created more questions than answers.

Regional leader Artur Mas from the center-right Convergence and Union party (CiU), an erstwhile supporter of greater regional autonomy within Spain, called the November 25th snap poll after a huge pro-separatist demonstration in September, declaring “The time has come to exercise the right to self-determination.”

Results of the election, in which nearly seventy percent participated, indeed showed gains for parties espousing independence. Together, separatist parties – CiU, the leftist ERC party, the environmentalist ICV party, and new secessionist party CUP – won a near two-thirds majority of eighty-seven seats. CiU was the biggest party with fifty seats, although this was a reduction of 12 seats from the previous election.  The ERC increased its share to twenty-one seats from twelve. The two mainstream national parties, the Socialists (PSOE) and Prime Minister Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP), garnered twenty and nineteen seats, respectively. And the anti-separatist Ciutadans party improved its standing, rising from three to nine seats.

What does this all mean? It was not the clear victory that Mas and the CiU had hoped for, as they dropped twelve seats.  Moreover, its potential coalition partner, the leftist ERC, is diametrically opposed to the center-right CiU’s austerity-laden economic program and would thus make for an uncomfortable cohort. Shortly after the election, Mas noted, “The ideal thing would be a coalition government with those who favor self-determination.” But ERC has thrown cold water on that idea. The likely result will be a weak minority government led by CiU, with unofficial support from ERC on efforts to secede from Spain.

Read @ The European Institute