Catalonia CATEXIT

A coalition of secessionist parties won an absolute majority in the Catalan regional parliament. The single party with the most seats, however, was the pro-Madrid Citizens party. Catalonia held regional elections Thursday 21 December 2017, two months after separatist campaigners declared independence from Madrid following a disputed referendum. Turnout hit a record high, with Catalans streaming from work to the polling stations. The regional government election results showed that just under 82 percent of eligible voters, some 3.7 million people, had cast their ballots — 7 percent more than the record turnout in 2015, when some 75 percent of the electorate cast a ballot.

Ousted regional President Carles Puigdemont is set to regain power in Catalonia after his Together for Catalonia (Junts per Catalonia) party captured 34 seats in Thursday's election. Together with the 36 seats of the two other pro-independence parties, the separatists are headed for an absolute majority in the 135-seat regional parliament. Puigdemont's bloc had fared slightly better in the last regional elections in 2015, however, when the pro-independence parties earned 72 seats. The secessionist parties garnered only 48 percent of the popular vote.

Prime Minister Rajoy, who had hoped the election would put an end to the drive to secede. But the pro-Madrid Citizens party won the most seats outright with 37, but will not be able to form as substantial a coalition as the secessionists.

The main political parties in favor of seceding from Spain are:

  1. Republican Left of Catalonia (Catalan: Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya - ERC), whose leader Oriol Junqueras was detained in the course of an investigation into the October 2017 referendum
  2. left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which advocates unilateral secession
  3. Together for Catalonia (Junts per Catalonia), which advocates secession without a timeline

The main political parties in favor of unity with Spain:

  1. conservative Popular Party (PP) of Prime Minister Rajoy
  2. center-left Catalan Socialist Party (PSC)
  3. Citizens party (Ciudadanos or C's), a progressive group which describes itself as post-nationalist

The anti-austerity Catalonia in Common (Catalunya En Comu-Podem) party, an alliance that has suffered internal divisions, could be a wildcard in a possible future regional coalition.

The vote took place against a backdrop of political uncertainty after Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament, deposed regional leader Carles Puigdemont and imposed direct rule on the region in October 2017. Four Catalan officials, including former vice president Oriol Junqueras, remained jailed on charges including sedition while Puigdemont and four former cabinet members remained in exile in Belgium.

With so many Catalonian leaders out of the way, new figures emerged during the campaign, with Marta Rovira, 40, of the pro-independence Republican Left party and Inés Arrimadas García, 36, of the anti-secession Citizens Party the favorites to succeed Puigdemont as regional president.

Catalonia is Spain’s Scotland. Catalonia regularly provides more revenue to the central government than it receives in services. The current separatist movement in Catalonia has its foundations in injustices perpetrated during the 1939-75 dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The dictator stripped the region of the powers it had been granted during Spain's 1931-36 Second Republic, and even banned public use of the Catalan language. After Franco's death in 1975, Catalonia was granted wide self-governance in areas such as health and education. However, in recent years, the push for independence has been given added impetus by Spain's lackluster economy.

The Estatut (Statute) governing relations between Catalonia and Madrid was approved via referendum in 2006. The Estatut granted increased powers to the Generalitat, including its own police force. It was, however, immediately challenged by the conservative Popular Party in the Constitutional Tribunal (TC), Spain's highest constitutional authority. In 2010 the Counrt accepted some of the charter, but rejeted parts of the statute that broadened the Catalan government's powers. The Court also said Catalonia cannot be defined as a "nation," and the Catalan language cannot be legally preferable.

Spain is in no position to service her national debt unless, on leaving, Catalonia takes over a portion. Key countries face a heavy exposure to that national debt. A Spanish default and exit from the euro would threaten the very survival of the EU's common currency.

While the vast majority of Catalans do not want independence, they do want respect from the rest of Spain. They want recognition of the importance of the region in the Spanish context - that they pay more into the system than they get out of it, that they are, at least in their own minds, the hardest working, most productive, and most efficient. They want acceptance of Catalonia as a people with a different "story", much like the Basques or the Galicians, that make them unique in Spain.

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