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Home » Content » The strange distribution of moderate vote in Catalonia
As Colomé warns, the secessionist parties are now seeking a common front that could once again disrupt the Catalan electoral landscape, as well as complicate the strategy of alliances to form a municipal government in Barcelona.

María Jesús Cañizares,

3 June 2023

Albert Núñez Feijóo (PP), Salvador Illa (c) and Xavier Trias (d), from left to right CG

The PP is gaining ground in Spain as a party far removed from confrontation, but the PSC is strong in Catalonia and Trias wins in Barcelona. What has happened to ERC’s pragmatic turn?

The ballot boxes spoke last Sunday. And time will tell whether the results of these municipal elections can be extrapolated to the general elections called early by Pedro Sánchez. But one of the interpretations made by experts consulted by ‘Crónica Global’ is that the Catalan electorate is voting for moderation.

This does not mean that voters in this community have a single party as a reference point for this centrality. Thus, while in Spain as a whole the PP is gaining ground as a party far removed from confrontation, in Catalonia it is the PSC that is growing as a guarantee of the end of a turbulent period of independence. In Barcelona, it is Xavier Trias who has managed to gather a useful vote against ideological populism, but how has this situation come about? What has happened to ERC, which also aspired to broaden its base?

In a processist key

Javier Lorente, lecturer in Political Science at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, interprets the situation in terms of the pro-independence ‘procés`: “The PSOE, on a general level, has tried to ease the Catalan situation, being generous with the pro-independence movement and despite the erosion it was going to suffer in the rest of Spain as a result. This has caused the PSC to rise in Catalonia”.

Indeed, the Catalan socialists, who already won the autonomous elections of 2021 – although the pro-independence parties won a majority – have won again, reaching the 2007 figures in the municipal elections of 28M. They obtained 712,000 votes and won in Girona, Lleida and Tarragona. In Barcelona they came second, behind Xavier Trias, the candidate of Junts per Catalunya who, however, ran without an acronym and avoided the company of his party’s radical leaders during the campaign.

Four years ago, ERC was the winning party in the municipal elections, winning more than 800,000 votes. After the failure of the pro-independence referendum, the Republicans undertook a moderate shift with the aim of broadening their base and taking centre stage in Catalonia. But on 28M they lost more than 300,000 votes.

ERC sinks

The “pro-independence side is punishing ERC precisely because it is one of the necessary parties in the PSOE’s policy of détente, which is why former ERC voters have turned to Junts and voted more along nationalist lines than on the left-right axis”, explains Lorente.

In this sense, the director of the Institut de Ciències Polítiques i Socials (ICPS), Gabriel Colomé, assures that the big loser of the municipal elections was precisely ERC. “It was the third party in terms of votes, 520,000, and has been surpassed by its Junts rivals,” he says.

Feijóo and the Catalan business community

While the Catalan socialists, led by Salvador Illa, are the benchmark for the useful vote, the PSOE is losing ground in the rest of Spain, where the PP is now seen as the party that represents the ideological centre, something that has had to do with the debacle of Ciudadanos and its failed attempt to overcome the concept of the two Spains.

In fact, at the recently held Círculo de Economía conference, the business community welcomed the leader of the Popular Party, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, as the great hope for a new era far removed from confrontation. And that also goes for the tense coexistence of PSOE and Podemos in the coalition government.

Complicities in fiscal and economic matters aside, what is certain is that Feijóo offered a conciliatory discourse with Catalonia, to the point of acknowledging the PP’s mistakes in its response to the pro-Catalonia affair.

In search of the centre

“From the results, it is very likely that the PP has done better among voters with a weak, ill-defined or genuinely centrist ideology. Of course, what does seem to be true is that the PP has been able to mobilise this electorate better”, adds the professor of political science.

The PP has also grown in Catalonia in the municipal elections, doubling its number of votes from 161,846 to 247,113. It has obtained representation in the four provincial capitals, and comfortable victories in important cities such as Badalona and Castelldefels.

A return to the dark years of the procés?

For Colomé, the question is how ERC will interpret its defeat in the municipal elections and what consequences it will have after the general elections. “A PP-VOX government would greatly relax the pro-independence space, as they would once again have a hostile government and we would return to the dark years of the ‘procés’”, he says.

A prognosis that adds complexity to Junts’ moderate bid in Barcelona. Trias won in this city –149,235 votes–, despite belonging to a party led by a sector that rejects the strategy of dialogue with the Spanish government to channel the secessionist problem and calls for compliance with the 1-O mandate.

As Colomé warns, the secessionist parties are now seeking a common front that could once again disrupt the Catalan electoral landscape, as well as complicate the strategy of alliances to form a municipal government in Barcelona.


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