Regional elections were held in the Spanish autonomía of Catalonia on Sunday, November 28. All 135 seats in Catalonia’s Parliament were up for election, and the control of the Generalitat, Catalonia’s very devolved regional government, was also up for grabs as a result. I had discussed Catalan nationalism and the idea of ‘Catalanism’ at lengths and briefly discussed the main political parties in a preview post last week. Without further adue, here are the results:
CiU 38.48% (+6.96%) winning 62 seats (+14)
PSC 18.31% (-8.51%) winning 28 seats (-9)
PP 12.33% (+1.68%) winning 18 seats (+4)
ICV-EUiA 7.38% (-2.14%) winning 10 seats (-2)
ERC 7% (-7.03%) winning 10 seats (-11)
C’s 3.40% (+0.37%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Sol Cat 3.28% (+3.28%) winning 4 seats (+4)
As predicted, the centre-right regionalist CiU won a strong victory, though in the end it fell 6 shorts of an overall majority and performed slightly worse than most polls had predicted. With 62 seats, Artur Mas will become President of the Generalitat, the first CiU leader of Catalonia’s devolved government since the Socialist tripartito (PSC-ERC-ICV) took power from the CiU in 2003. The CiU cooperates well with other parties, but it rarely works with other parties in a formal coalition agreement. Its governments have only once (between 1984 and 1987) included a member of a party other than the CiU. It prefers As thus, Artur Mas will form a minority government which will enjoy relative stability. While relations between the CiU and the ERC have soured recently, they still do share some common ground, more or less, on questions of devolution. Finally, of course, the PP has an interest in supporting or propping up Mas in the long run. They disagree on devolution given that the PP are centralists, but the PP knows when to stop acting as such. Looking forward to 2012, when the PP could more likely than not have a minority government in Madrid, it would need the support of the CiU (as between 1996 and 2000) and the PP could support Mas in Barcelona in return for the CiU’s support if Rajoy is in power come 2012.
The PP are the second winners of this election, and furthermore they managed to exceed expectations. Not predicted to do well, they in fact gained 4 seats and nearly 2% of the vote. They probably took a few votes from the CiU (they do share a general right-wing ideology), which was widely predicted to win big (thus not motivating fickle voters to vote for them in the end). It certainly represents a positive trend for the PP, but the PP remains very weak in Catalonia overall. The Ciutadans held their ground, but didn’t gain anything in the end. Given that they work with a low floor and ceiling, that isn’t very surprising.
The PSC collapsed totally. The PSC’s old low in these elections had been 25% in 1995, and overall the PSC had never dropped below 20% in any election in Catalonia. The PSC basically had everything going against it. An unpopular Socialist government in Madrid, voter fatigue with a government in power since 2003, an economic crisis in which Catalans (who are faring slightly better) resent having to prop up poorer parts of Spain, and dogged by infighting in the three-party government. I said that these elections are poor predictors of other elections, but certainly this can’t be good news for the national Socialist Party ahead of the 2011 and 2012 elections. These numbers would indicate that the PSOE could fail worse than in 1995, but thankfully for them the PP is certainly not much stronger overall.
The PSC’s two allies since 2003 also took hits. The ERC took a big hit, losing half its vote. The ERC was hurt by internal squabbles between current leader (who has resigned) Joan Puigcercós and former leader J.L. Carod Rovira. It was also hurt significantly by competition to its left by two smaller and more radical separatist parties, the SI and RI. The ICV-EUiA did disappointingly badly, shedding a fair number of votes. The ICV and its national counterpart, the IU, always tend to over poll and suffer in the final stretch as a few hesitant left-wing voters return to the PSC. It is hard to see if that was a reason for their disappointing result this year, though.
The radical separatist Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència (SI), led by former Barcelona FC manager Joan Laporte, a millionaire. They picked up four seats. To my surprise, they cleared 3% just barely in Barcelona which gave them 3 seats in the most important province of the region. However, they also won nearly 5% in Girona, giving them a seat there as well. The Reagrupament Independentista, crazier than the SI, took 1.28% and broke 3% in Girona. The islamophobic Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC) took 2.42%, narrowly missing out on a seat.
In the process, CiU won all comarcas, a feat it had not done since 1995. It won Barcelona, which is a good bellwether for the national popular vote winner, with 36.3% against 17.8% for the PSC (it had only narrowly gone to the CiU in 2006). It also won a fair share of communes in Barcelona’s industrial-immigrant hinterland, most notably places like Sabadell or Badalona. In fact, the PSC was relegated to only a small base in that area, barely winning places such as L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a major industrial suburb of Barcelona. In rural Catalonia, as always, the CiU won clearly over 40% of the vote, often over 50% in the most isolated areas in the Pyrénées. In a lot of those villages, the ERC often managed to place second while parties such as the PSC or PP did extremely poorly.
It is important to note that comarcas are effectively gerrymandered to the CiU’s benefit in local government, so they’re perhaps not the best level for full analysis. For example, if these elections used comarcal boundaries as constituency boundaries, the CiU would garner roughly 88 seats to the PSC’s 23 according to an analysis here.
Catalonia will likely get four years of stable conservative government, with the squabbling of the tripartito era gone – if not for good, than for quite some time. Though Mas has a forthright attitude towards devolution, the economy was the basis of the CiU’s campaign. He promises, first off, some sort of austerity measures. That could include getting rid of the tons of quangos which the outgoing government setup. However, his government will also attempt to wrestle off more powers from Madrid, as is usual with all CiU governments. Mas’ ultimate goal is to give Catalonia full financial powers, and thus give the region an aura of sovereignty without being an independent nation. Zapatero has already signed a deal with the Basque PNV which grants the Basque Country more powers in return for the PNV’s support for Zapatero’s budget. It is likely that the CiU will do the same either with Zapatero or his successor.