Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Wednesday, 23 december 2015 | VILAWEB

English

Catalonia’s cause gains new hope after elections see surge for smaller parties


THE NATIONAL

22-12-2015.-
 
GREG RUSSELL
 

 
SPAIN could be facing weeks of political horse-trading after two new parties rocked the country’s traditional two-horse race in its general election – a result that could prove beneficial for the independence lobby in the north-eastern Catalonia region.

The left-wing Podemos (which means We Can) and the right-of-centre Ciudadanos (Citizens’) parties received strong support from voters weary of high unemployment, austerity and disgust over the country’s political status quo.

If forced out of government, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his Popular Party (PP) will become the third European victims this year – after Greece and Portugal – of a voter backlash against austerity, tax rises and spending cuts invoked during the Eurozone’s debt crisis.

In past elections, the PP and the main opposition Socialists (PSOE) needed support from only tiny parties to gain a parliamentary majority when they did not win one from voters.

But Podemos and its allies came in a strong third place with 69 seats in the 350-member lower house of parliament, and Ciudadanos was fourth with 40, in their first election fielding national candidates.

“Spain is not going to be the same anymore and we are very happy,” said a jubilant Pablo Iglesias, the pony-tailed leader of Podemos.
The PP won 123 seats, far below its 186-seat majority from four years ago, and the Socialist Party won 90.

The European Free Alliance (EFA) – an umbrella organisation for progressive nationalist, regionalist and autonomist parties throughout the EU – said the result could be good news for independence-supporting Catalans.

An EFA spokesman told The National: “We have an unprecedented number of pro-independence Catalan MPs elected (17) from both the EFA member Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) as well as the pro-independence coalition Democracy and Freedom (DiL). The Catalan voters sent a second very clear message to Madrid within three months that a democratic mandate for independence is a reality and the new Spanish government needs to finally come to terms with it and act accordingly.”

He added that EFA did not see the result as having a direct impact on the process of Catalan independence.

“The Catalan independentist MPs are not required for a new government to be formed,” he said.

“On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that any other Spanish party, besides Podemos, would pledge to support a Catalan independence referendum, nor is it certain that such a belated attempt for a referendum would be accepted in Catalonia.

“In this respect, almost everything depends on the way the pro-independence parties in Catalonia proper continue with the roadmap to independence, and so far all indications point out that the process will continue as planned.”

The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia said there appeared to be two possible alternatives.

Albert Royo-Mariné, its secretary general, said: “Either a left coalition led by the PSOE with the support of Podemos and the Catalan pro-independence parties, or a grand coalition of PP and PSOE, maybe with the (unnecessary) support of Ciudadanos.

“The former would imply a shift to the left in the government policies as well as support for some basic reforms, and would be very good news for Catalonia because a self-determination referendum would be part of the deal. The latter would create a broad consensus to reform the Spanish Constitution in order to consolidate the status quo and avoid the structural reforms needed, and would not take into account the Catalan request for a referendum.”

Royo-Mariné said a grand coalition with no referendum proposals could exacerbate the conflict between Catalonia and Spain.



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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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