Catalan election offers Mas hope of independence mandate
Separation from Spain has been the key issue throughout the campaign. But failure to clinch a majority will be a setback for the region’s gambling premier.
By Guy Hedgecoe
Sunday’s election in Catalonia is probably the most significant in the region since Spain’s transition to democracy in the late 1970s, due to the way the issue of independence has utterly dominated the campaign.
Although the central government’s Partido Popular (PP) will not win, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will follow the election extremely closely. The upsurge in pro-independence sentiment in Catalonia has suddenly emerged as Rajoy’s most urgent political challenge and he has struggled to deal with it effectively.
Guy Hedgecoe examines the Catalan independence drive (Audio):
A resounding win for the incumbent, Artur Mas of the CiU mainstream nationalists, would seem to hand him a mandate to push ahead with his separatist agenda. He called early elections after Rajoy refused to consider a new fiscal framework for the Catalan region. It was a bold move by Mas and if he secures the 68 seats needed for a majority (up from 62 now), it will have paid off.
The Catalan premier put independence at the heart of his campaign, setting the agenda for all the political parties. He has appealed to voters to give him the kind of mandate he says allowed Scotland’s nationalists to negotiate a referendum on independence with London. But Mas has warned he will organise his own referendum whether Madrid likes it or not.
However, recent polls have cast doubt on Mas’s ability to secure a majority in the Catalan parliament. He has been hurt by accusations made by El Mundo newspaper that he and others in the CiU have Swiss bank accounts containing ill-gotten funds. Mas has presented this as an attempt to slander Catalonia and hinder his self-rule project.
Polls suggest that while the vote for the CiU may not increase, a more radical pro-independence party, Esquerra Republicana (ERC), is likely to benefit much more from the wave of nationalist feeling.
Despite the prevailing political wind in Catalonia, the PP’s staunch stance against further decentralisation resounds among conservative voters and the party could leapfrog the Socialists.
The Catalan Socialist Party has struggled to get a grip on recent developments, eventually settling on a proposal for a “federal” solution for the region – a third way between its rivals. But this alternative has failed to convince voters, it seems, and the party is still suffering an image crisis on a national level due to the economic legacy of former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. A very poor performance on Sunday would pile further pressure on the leader of the Spanish Socialists, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.
The biggest certainty going into Sunday’s vote is that the result – like that of the recent Basque election – will see pro-independence parties dominate the region’s parliament. If no party gets a majority, the CiU and ERC’s ability to agree on how to implement their visions of a Catalan state is a different matter, but such an outcome will still manage to unsettle the government in Madrid deeply.
Next: Signs of Chinese recovery lift the euro
Previous: La Liga: prodigal Reyes finds form for derby demolition
Published: Nov 21 2012
Category: Featured, Politics, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=7348
You can follow any responses to this entry via RSS 2.0
Tags: catalan independence, CiU, El Mundo, election, spain, spain news