If the pandemic does not prevent it, Catalonia will go to the polls again on February 14. It will be the fifth time it has done so since 2010. In other words, the Catalans will have been consulted in a decade as many times as they would have been in two if each legislature had exhausted its planned deadline. This gives us an idea of the hectic times we are living in. It is true that in 2010 there were only 10% of pro-independence deputies in the Parliament. And that in the XII legislature, closed two weeks ago with the official announcement of 14-F, that percentage has been close to 50%, which probably satisfies sovereignty. But it is also true that the procés has left a painful legacy, which is materialized in the division of the country into two blocks, in its loss of economic muscle and influence, in the prison or flight abroad of the independence leadership and, in short , in a country exhausted after years of unproductive struggles, and also now subjected to the ravages of the covid.
It is not easy to choose the least fortunate legislature among the last four. But the twelfth has received, among others, descriptions such as “lost”, “sterile”, “failed”, “turbulent”, “fateful”, “unfortunate”, “dispensable” or “minimal”, many of them coming, for true, of the sovereignist side. It has been headed by President Quim Torra, who reduced his functions to those of vicar and preferred the gesture of the activist to the action of the statesman, seeing himself as a result of this disabled. This legislature has been characterized by the open, paralyzing and undisguised fracture between the two partners of a Government that has seemed more committed to the nationalist demand than to the obligations of any Executive. It has registered a meager legislative action (32 laws passed, but only twelve presented by the Government itself, and 75 decree laws). And it has abounded in speeches based on victimhood and the democratic disqualification of the State, to which it was tried to place all responsibility for the conflict, while avoiding self-criticism. So it is difficult for the whole country to advance.
Whoever it is, the winner of 14-F will have to make an effort to reach out to the other block
After two years, eleven months and five days, the XII Catalan legislature ended, as we said, with the call for 14-F, whose forecast is open. The polls give ERC an advantage, which faces the elections with a pragmatic spirit, crystallized in the idea of broadening the base and forging alliances to be more and stronger. With Oriol Junqueras sentenced to thirteen years in the procés trial, in October 2019, and still in prison, the Republican candidate is Pere Aragonès, who has been acting president of the Generalitat since Quim Torra was removed from office. In Junts, on the contrary, these elections are faced with their usual pugnacious spirit, synthesized in the slogan “Democratic overflow”, of unleashed meteorological echoes (such as the “democratic tsunami”), but without a known strategy.
According to the December barometer of the Center for Sociological Research, 16-F will vote for ERC 16.7% of Catalans (a figure that increases to 19.4% if the respondents who are still undecided but with a preference for this training are added) , while Junts stands at 9.9%. The difference is appreciable, but the fact that the republicans have fallen compared to the previous barometer still gives Puigdemont’s hope of victory. In turn, the socialist PSC could collect, always according to the aforementioned December CIS poll, 14.3% of the votes, although the recent incorporation of Salvador Illa, Spanish Health Minister, as candidate for the Catalan socialist PSC, as head of the list could make this data vary; En Comú Podem, 7.6%; Ciudadanos, 6.8%; the CUP, 4.5%; the PP, 3.5%, and Vox and PDECat would tie at 1.5%. From all this it follows that there will probably be a pro-independence majority in the Parliament of Catalonia when the XIII legislature opens. Perhaps with more than 50% of the votes. This percentage is interpreted by some sovereignists –not all– as the magic key that will give them access to their dream. But the reality is multifaceted. Other studies show results that do not support this thesis. And they tell us that only 10% of Catalans believe that independence will be achieved. Or that only about 40% would vote for independence in a referendum.
Democratic fatigue does not justify in any case the abandonment of electoral duties
Nowadays, one can only guess what the ballot box will bring us. But, whatever the result, the winner will have to face two priority challenges to straighten the course of a country in decline and on the verge of decadence, as Catalonia is now: overcoming the division and polarization of its citizens, which dangerously diminishes its strength as a collective, and define a new roadmap that has as its priority economic recovery and relaunch. These are now two obvious urgencies for anyone who considers that a fractured Catalonia is unviable and that the current health, economic and social crisis threatens to condemn it to irrelevance.
The recipe to avoid these dangers is to try to overcome the policy of blocks that in recent years has been consolidating to the point of fossilization. Whether it is one formation or another that receives the confidence of the Catalans, after 14-F he will have to make an effort to reach out to those who are located in the other block. The Government of the Generalitat must once again be, unlike what it has been in recent legislatures, that of all Catalans. Because that is their obligation and because only then does it have a reason to be. This can only be achieved with new policies that seek agreement, collaboration –at least in central issues– and overcoming a stage of shock with very negative effects for all known. Judging by the recent experience of the budget pact in Barcelona City Council, it should be noted that if ERC is the winner, these new policies have a better chance of making their way. In order for them to materialize and be reflected in the reality of the country, it is essential that all Catalans are aware of the importance of the upcoming elections and deny, with a high turnout, the forecasts relating to a large number of undecided and an upward abstention. After erratic years and citizen boredom before a harsh political style, a certain democratic fatigue, exacerbated by the pandemic, is understandable. But in no case would it justify the abandonment of electoral duties, and less when the country desperately needs a stimulus and new horizons.
The priority for 2021 is recovery, and that calls for more flexibility and new partnerships
Naturally, in order to lessen the political anger and favor these outstretched hands, it would be very convenient to find a solution to the situation of the prisoners. The Government of Pedro Sánchez is working on the path of pardon. But the four prosecutors in the procés case rejected this possibility last week, attributing it to “political agreements.”
The Executive has room for maneuver there, although it must respect certain deadlines. But the main thing, and this is true for the central Government, the Catalan Government and all the citizens of Catalonia, is that in 2021 we realize, without further delay, that the country is in decline. That you have to focus on getting it back. And that this requires more flexibility and new alliances.