Catalonia towards self-determination in Europe

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The results of the European elections in Catalonia have several diverse implications for Catalan politics at a key moment for the country. First of all, the left-wing independence ERC's historical victory (23.7%), ahead of the governing centre-right CiU (21.9%), consolidates the referendum on Catalonia's political future scheduled for 9th of November next, which does not have the Spanish Government's support at this moment. Parties in favour of Catalonia's right to self-determination, the ERC (23.7%), CiU (21.9%), Green Socialists ICV (10.3%) and the alternative left party Podemos (4.7%), has now reached 61% of the vote, with a majority of left-wing parties within this block. Moreover, the ERC's victory has been achieved by overtaking the CiU, the governing party in Catalonia, which can now ask the left-wing independence and republic supporters for a further engagement. In fact, until now, the ERC was providing support to the Catalan Government from outside the Executive, as the first opposition party.

Secondly, the socialist party PSC's resounding defeat (14.3%), which was a loss of more than 20 percentage points on the 2009 results, compounded the Catalan Socialists' deep crisis, which may stop being the point of reference for the left-wing in Catalonia, in favour of the ERC. This may be a consequence of, firstly, the PSC's vagueness and, later, their belligerence regarding the right to self-determination. However, it could also be because of the PSOE's general crisis in Spain. In any case, the CiU-PSC bipartidism may be a story of the past in Catalonia.

Thirdly, the turnout increase of ten percentage points (47.4%), the best figure since that from 1999, could be attributable to the mobilisation of pro-self-determination voters. However, it could also indicate that caution is required when extrapolating these results to other types of elections, despite the electoral campaign being quite shaped by this issue.

Finally, the results of the CiU, which decreased by 0.5 of a percentage point but increased by more than 100,000 votes in absolute terms, are not bad results considering they are the governing party and they have particularly been eroded due to the austerity policies.

The results at Spanish level have also been historical, since they have confirmed an important shortcoming of bipartidism despite the victory of the conservative PP (26.06%) and the second position of the Socialist PSOE (23%), which combined do not reach half of all the votes cast. While the PP's victory has given Mariano Rajoy's government some air, for the PSOE the results have brought immediate changes with the resignation of Secretary General Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, and the beginning of a race to lead Spanish Socialism.

The good results of the post-Communist IU (9.99%), for the left-wing, and those of the centralist UPyD (6.49%), together with the emergence of the young, charismatic Pablo Iglesias' party Podemos (7.96%), confirmed there are ultimately alternatives to the traditional bipartidism, although they are very fragmented. In any case, this situation would also be new for Catalan parties, particularly for the CiU, which was used in the past to act as a pivotal party between the two large Spanish parties in the Madrid Parliament.

The 2014 European elections might be the start of a new Catalan and Spanish political map, but also of Catalonia's road towards its right to self-determination. 


by Marc Sanjaume

Professor of Political Science at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) and at the Universitat de Girona (UdG). Together with Marc Guinjoan and Toni Rodon, Member of the El Pati Descobert group.

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