BARCELONA, 24 July 2023
Its support has been falling since the most intense moments of the political conflict, but it has clearly accentuated this 23J. An increase in abstention and the transfer of votes to PSC and Sumar explain the current setback.
One of the big headlines in Catalan terms of the general elections of 23J is the sharp fall of the pro-independence movement, which has lost nine of the 23 MPs it had in Congress and almost 700,000 votes compared to the elections of 10 November 2019. All in all, the arithmetic places ERC and, above all, Junts in a key position to allow a new investiture of Pedro Sánchez or to go towards a repeat election.
Between Esquerra, Junts, the CUP and the PDeCAT, on Sunday they received 985,991 votes, 28.2% of the total, which means that for the first time the pro-independence movement has fallen below one million votes since the beginning of the Procés in 2012. This is light years away from the more than two million votes that the space attracted in the elections to the Parliament in December 2017, called under the application of art. 155 and at one of the high points of the political conflict.
On this occasion, part of the traditional pro-independence electorate has opted for abstention – certain sectors had promoted it, disappointed with the parties – but in no case can we undermine a transfer of votes towards the PSC and, to a lesser extent, Sumar En Comú Podem in a conjunctural key and with the clear objective of preventing a government of the PP and Vox in the State.
At the same time, at least so far the studies do not suggest that this situation would have to be repeated in a hypothetical election in the Parliament and, therefore, it cannot be concluded that the pro-independence movement has no chance of continuing at the helm of the Generalitat.
Let’s take it one step at a time. Compared to the previous general elections -held on 10 November 2019-, the pro-independence movement as a whole has lost 14.4 points of support -from 42.6% to 28.2%- and 660,000 votes, as well as nine MPs, divided between the six that ERC has lost -from 13 to 7-, one less for Junts -from 7 to 6- and the two for the CUP, which has been left out of Congress.
In absolute figures, Esquerra has fallen to little more than half of the votes it had – losing 412,000 votes -, Junts has 140,000 fewer, and the CUP has barely retained 40% of its support – from almost 250,000 votes to 100,000. PDeCAT has only received 32,000 votes, 0.9%, and is below even the animal rights activists of Pacma.
It should be remembered, however, that the 2019 elections came barely four weeks after the sentence of the Procés trial, which led to a strong mobilisation to reject the Supreme Court’s sentencing of nine pro-independence leaders to prison, and that the parties in this area then achieved the best overall result in their history in Congress.
Abstention grows more in pro-independence fiefdoms
Unlike in Spain as a whole, turnout in Catalonia was lower than in the previous general elections, falling from 69.4% to 65.4%, which, translated into absolute figures, is equivalent to 350,000 votes. The fall was certainly greater in areas with a traditionally pro-independence majority, but the loss of votes for the pro-sovereignty parties cannot be attributed solely to the lower turnout, as it is almost double.
Abstention is growing strongly in areas such as Vic, Berga, Gerona, Olot and Banyoles.
The increase in abstention was more marked in the provinces of Girona (+6 points) and Lleida (+4.43) than in Barcelona (+3.78) and Tarragona (+3.08). If we focus on specific municipalities, the drop in voter turnout in historic pro-independence strongholds, such as Vic (-11.23 points), Berga (-12.46), the city of Girona (-10.19), Olot (-12.29), Banyoles (-10.6), Santa Coloma de Farners (-10, 12), Tàrrega (-10.57), Balaguer (-8.08) and Móra d’Ebre (-7.44), while in general terms it resists better in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and the coast of Tarragona, where the PSC has usually had a strong presence.
The latest Baròmetre d’Opinió Política of the Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió (CEO), published on 5 July, already pointed to a significant transfer of votes from pro-independence parties to PSC or Sumar, more focused towards the socialists from Junts and towards Sumar from the CUP, and with weight towards the two formations from ERC. In this sense, the director of the CEO, Jordi Muñoz, commented on Monday that the main error of the Barometer was the underestimation of Sumar, despite detecting that it maintained an upward trend, and that this is partly linked to an overestimation of Demobilisation on the rise
The loss of support for the pro-independence parties had already been significant in the municipal elections of 28 May, when they attracted 1,261,962 votes, 42% of the total, but it has increased significantly in just two months, largely due to the dual vote for state-friendly options such as PSC and Sumar En Comú Podem. In fact, all pro-independence options have lost ground compared to the local elections. Since the Procés began in 2012, the pro-independence parties have moved in Congress between a minimum of 17 MPs and 31.1% of the votes – in 2015 – and a maximum of 23 and 42.6% – in 2019 – and in this long decade they have never fallen below 1.1 million votes. In the 2015 municipal elections they had surpassed 1.4 million support, a figure that grew too close to 1.6 four years later.
The highest number of pro-independence votes was registered in Parliament in 2017, with almost 2.1 million.
The largest pro-independence mobilisation, however, has always taken place in the elections in the Parliament, where in absolute figures it reached its peak in the elections of 21 December 2017 – called under the application of art.155 and with several pro-independence leaders in prison or in exile – with almost 2,080,000 votes (47.5% of the total), 115,000 more than those registered in 2015.
In relative terms, however, the highest volume of votes came in February 2021, with 50.7%, despite the fact that in a context of demobilisation and lower voter turnout, this translated into just under 1.45 million ballots. In all cases, however, independence won a majority of MCPs in the chamber. Finally, in the two European elections held in this period (2014 and 2019), the pro-independence parties received between 1.1 million votes (2014) and 1.7 million (2019, in an election that coincided with the municipal elections of that year).The CEO foresees greater resistance from the pro-independence movement in a parliamentary election.
However, the latest CEO Barometer predicts greater resistance from the pro-independence movement in a hypothetical election in Parliament, as it places the sum of ERC, Junts and the CUP between a minimum of 63 MCPs and a maximum of 77, so that they could surpass the absolute majority of 68, with Esquerra competing for victory with the PSC. If confirmed, it would be the return of the dual vote, in which part of the population opts for parties of state obedience in the Congress and for strictly Catalan options in the Parliament, something classic in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Socialists always won in the general elections and the CiU did the same in the Catalan elections.
Obviously, the question remains as to what impact the 23J result will have and, above all, what will happen with the scenario left by the polls and the negotiations that will be opened in the coming weeks to see if the pro-independence debacle stops or, on the other hand, the crisis of the three parties in this space goes further.