Catalunya is known for its tumultuous history and often complex politics, and today’s regional government is no exception. The most recent elections took place on September 27th, 2015 (27-S), and no individual party won an overall majority (68 seats). Just under half of the 135 seats went to pro-independence coalition Junts pel Sí (meaning ‘Together for Yes’), who went on to form a government with the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP). The seats are now divided between six parties and coalitions (see right). It was understood that if Junts pel Sí were to win a majority, the incumbent president, Artur Mas, would be re-elected. However, the reluctance of CUP members to go into government under Mas led to the appointment of Carles Puigdemont as the 130th president of the Generalitat on January 12th, 2016. So, who belongs to which party and what exactly do they want for the future of Catalunya?
First, a little bit of history. Founded in 1283 with the task of collecting taxes, the Generalitat of Catalunya has been in existence for over eight centuries. By the 14th century, the Generalitat had become the most important political body in Catalunya. Despite being dissolved on a number of occasions by different ruling powers, including Philip V in 1714, Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1925 and Francisco Franco in 1939, the Generalitat has stood the test of time and continues to be the core of Catalunya’s self-government.
Located in Plaça Sant Jaume, today’s Generalitat has a legislative, executive and regulatory function, and consists of 135 elected ministers (diputats) and a president. Catalunya exercises its autonomy through the Generalitat on regional matters, such as culture, environment, communications, transportation, commerce, public safety and local councils. For any national matters, such as education, health and justice, jurisdiction is shared with the Spanish state. Political parties and the Catalan population are divided on this, and the question of independence is always a major item on Catalunya’s agenda at both a local and national level.
Spokesperson: Anna Gabriel
Seats in the Generalitat: 10
Political Position: Radical left
Summary: The Candidatura d’Unitat Popular was founded with the aim of obtaining independence for Catalunya and opposing capitalism. Despite only winning 10 seats in the 27-S elections, they managed to obtain huge political sway by joining Junts pel Sí to form a pro-independence government.
Key policies in Catalunya: In terms of redefining Catalunya, the CUP advocate the most extreme policies. Not only do they want to break away from Spain, but also from the EU, troika and the eurozone. Anti-austerity, anti-corruption and anti-privatisation sentiments are central values. Since entering the 2015 government, the CUP have continued to cause controversy over issues such as the privatisation of water supplier, Aigües Ter-Llobregat. They also strongly oppose the BCN World Project—a €4.7 billion project to build casinos, theme parks, golf courses and a ‘smart city’ close to PortAventura in Tarragona. This project has been defended by the PP, the PSC and Ciutadans as a way of improving the economy.
Anna Gabriel, Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP)
Leader: Jordi Turull
Seats in the Generalitat: 62
Political position: Complicated
Summary: Junts pel Sí was founded in July 2015 as a coalition of three parties—Convergencia Democrática de Catalunya (CDC), Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and Demòcrates de Catalunya (DC)—with the common aim of obtaining independence for Catalunya. Although the CDC’s position on independence was previously ambiguous, Junts pel Sí has given them the power to make changes in government and move towards greater autonomy. However, should independence be introduced, it is likely that the CDC will return to their position as a right-wing party.
Key policies in Catalunya: Although each party still has its own manifesto, Junts pel Sí’s primary aim is to declare independence for Catalunya within 18 months of being elected. They have prepared a detailed plan of action relating to this, which includes general elections and the ratification of a new constitution. Should the Spanish state block the self-governance of Catalunya, the plan is to continue with the declaration under the international law of ‘transitional justice’, which applies to governments in transition, where violations of human rights have occurred in the past. This could help Catalunya devolve power to the current departments of the Generalitat, which would function as the structures of the new state. It would also facilitate the final step involving negotiations with Spain, as well as EU membership and obtaining international recognition. It is worth noting, however, that under the Spanish constitution, military intervention is stated as a legitimate form of resistance to any community declaring independence unconstitutionally.
Photo credit: Parlament de Catalunya.
Jordi Turull, Junts pel Sí
Leader: Inés Arrimadas
Seats in the Generalitat: 25 (40 in national government)
Political position: Centre/centre-right
Summary: Ciutadans was founded in response to a growing sentiment that part of the population were unrepresented by existing political parties. Its founders were intellectuals and professionals who were opposed to Catalan nationalism. Albert Rivera Díaz, the party’s national leader, summarised its ideology in his famous quote: “Catalunya is my homeland, Spain is my country and Europe is our future”. The party’s popularity has grown over the years, starting with three seats in 2010, nine in 2012 and 25 seats in 2015.
Key policies in Catalunya: Ciutadans promote themselves as a modern, populist party. They boldly entered the political scene with a campaign that involved Díaz posing naked with the slogan: ‘Your party has been born’. Main policies focus on health, but also address social issues such as equal maternity/paternity leave, surrogacy laws and gay marriage. They support the LMOCE—an education law that aims to reduce hours dedicated to religion and introduce multilingual schooling. They do not support a referendum on Catalan independence.
Inés Arrimadas, Ciutadans (C's)
Leader: Josep Lluís Franco Rabell
Seats in the Generalitat: 11
Political position: Left
Summary: Catalunya Si Que Es Pot is a left-wing coalition composed of Podemos, Initiativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV), Esquerra Unida i Alternativa (EUiA) and Equo. All of the parties involved also form part of citizen group ‘Barcelona en Comú’, currently governing the City of Barcelona and headed by mayor, Ada Colau. They emerged as a result of the effervescent political climate of recent years, many of them being social activists or indignados (‘outraged’) individuals with no political past.
Key policies in Catalunya: They are neutral on the topic of independence and support a referendum by the people of Catalunya. Like the PSC, they reject the LMOCE and support the use of Catalan as the vernacular language in schools, and, like the CUP, they have also come up against government plans for the BCN World Project.
Josep Lluís Franco Rabell, Catalunya Si Que Es Pot (CatSiqueesPot)
First Secretary: Miquel Iceta Llorens
Seats in the Generalitat: 16 (90 in national government)
Political position: Centre-left
Summary: The national socialist party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español or PSOE) has a federation in each autonomous community. The Catalan branch (PSC), differs from the others in that it is not formally required to report back to the PSOE’s general secretary, although there is a certain amount of co-ordination between the two parties, which allows for joint action in moments of crisis.
Key policies in Catalunya: The PSC supports a Catalan public school system, characterised by inclusivity, secularism and integration, and are opposed to the LMOCE law. The latter states that all schools should offer education in Spanish, English and Catalan. In cases where education is not available in Spanish, the government would fund private study for pupils. Like the PSOE, the PSC does not support a referendum, but rather the introduction of a federalist alternative, protecting Catalunya’s identity and projects as an autonomous community.
Miquel Iceta Llorens, El Partit del Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC)
Leader: Xavier García Albiol
Seats in the Generalitat: 11 (185 in the national government)
Political position: Right
Summary: This Madrid-based party has held power at a national level since 2010, when it won 185 out of 350 seats. Although their latest stint in government has been somewhat overshadowed by controversy and corruption, the party continues to hold power provisionally (see right). The Catalan branch of the PP won 11 Generalitat seats in the 2015 elections. The current leader in Catalunya is former mayor of Badalona, Xavier García Albiol, who has previously made headlines in relation to racism allegations.
Key policies in Catalunya: The main policies of the PP in Catalunya include reduction of street crime and antisocial behaviour, and improving gender equality. As a nationalist party, the PP do not support a referendum on independence. The PP’s views on women’s rights have been called into question since the abortion referendum dispute in 2014 and 2015, which saw them make international headlines over proposed alterations to abortion law. There was widespread opposition to the referendum, particularly in Catalunya, which eventually forced the PP to back down.
Xavier García Albiol, Partit Popular (PP)
The National Situation
What is the investidura?
At a national level, Spain is currently going through a period of political stalemate. No majority emerged from the national elections in December 2015 (20-D), and it is proving almost impossible for the parties who did obtain seats to form a coalition government. Should a government not be formed, the only solution will be a revote, which will be called on May 3rd and held on June 26th. In the meantime, the PP continue to lead the central government.