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Cataluña in its labyrinth

Firstly they were summoned by the President of the Spanish government by virtue of his legal executive authority granted by Article 155 of the Constitution, by which the Cataluña government was seized and the regional parliament was dissolved.

Second, the candidates heading the electoral lists for the Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the main pro-independent parties are one, in prison and the other fled to Brussels. Participation has been exceptional (almost a historic 82%) and for the first time the most voted party, Ciudadanos (Citizens), is unaffiliated to the nationalist universe and established in Cataluña just 11 years ago. Its rapid ascent and victory (37 seats, 25,37% of the votes) are not enough to form a government. The set of pro-independent parties, which went to the elections separated, continues to have the absolute majority (70 of 135 seats: 34 for the Junts per Cataluña, the personal list of the former president; 32 seats for Esquerra Republicana and 4 for  Candidatura de Unidad Popular).

The news is the practical immobility of the constitutional and nationalist blocks. As attested by the four last regional elections since 2010, before the burst of the pro-independents, votes are coming within both political trends, not between them. This is a feature of the political sociology of Cataluña, resembling the Basque Country.

Another innovative feature has been the downfall of the party of Mariano Rajoy in Cataluña, the Partido Popular (Popular Party), whose voters migrated to the Ciudadanos party. This could foretell a possible great shift of the center-right vote in the rest of Spain which could leave the Partido Popular in opposition very soon.

Lastly, within the pro-independent block, Esquerra Republicana has seen its old aspiration of surpassing the Catalán Nationalist party dominance, currently re-converted under the acronym Junts per Cataluña.

In the scope of the possible political strategies, the inevitable end is still more difficult than the previous. The hard-line strategy provided by Rajoy, the fleeing of businesses from Cataluña and the initial negative data of the regional economy has not discouraged the pro-independent electorate.

In effect, these elections have not assessed the political management of the past government but votes have been to defeat the enemy block. The reality is that society is profoundly divided with their political affiliations with a recognizable ethical, social and territorial undertone.

Pro-independents are strong among the rich and with several generations of Catalán forefathers and with rural residents and small and medium-sized cities. The pro-union hopefuls, on the contrary, prevail among the descendants from other parts of Spain and the working class, located mainly in Barcelona and its metropolitan area.

The greatest question lies in whether the former President is capable of taking possession of his seat, become authorized and form the government. The judicial proceedings initiated by the Supreme Tribunal and the Federal Court against pro-independent leaders interfere with the political times. This will certainly be a legislature with a considerable amount of delegates indicted by the corresponding authorities.

What remains to be seen is if the new nationalist government will try to proceed with the independence process or whether it will adopt a more conciliatory stance. The fate of political prisoners and indicted people will have a bearing on the decision but if the option is the former, the degree of conflict this will raise and its economic repercussion will certainly augur somber years for Cataluña.

[1] Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (España) = Superior Council for Scientific Research (Spain)

Consejo Editorial