Editorial

A complex result: on the Catalan election

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The fractured outcome of the Catalan election demands wise next steps from Madrid

Last week’s snap election in Catalonia in Spain saw pro-independence parties win an absolute majority in the region’s parliament, but challenges remain for them to form a government given the fractured mandate. The three main pro-independence parties, Together for Catalonia (JxCat), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), and the left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which secured 70 of 135 seats and 48% of the popular vote collectively, could form a government if they can band together — an outcome that is not a given. The Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, which wants Catalonia to be semi-autonomous, emerged as the single largest party with 37 seats and 25% of the vote, a large jump from its previous vote share of 7.6% two years ago. The fact that JxCat leader Carles Puigdemont, the former president of the region and the driving force behind the independence referendum, is in exile, and former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, who leads the ERC, is in prison makes the formation of a pro-independence coalition tricky. Mr. Puigdemont will have to return to Barcelona if he wants to lead a government but he faces arrest upon return. Even if he does return, it remains to be seen if the pro-independence parties can find alignment. Mr. Junqueras has suggested he is open to reconciliation with Madrid while also pursuing independence, a softer approach than Mr. Puigdemont’s.

 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has indicated that the winner of the elections, in his reckoning, is the 36-year-old rising star of the Citizens party, Inés Arrimadas, who ran a campaign — not unlike others seen recently in Europe — focussing on the economic consequences of Catalonia leaving Spain. While it is true that Ms. Arrimadas’s party is the biggest winner, it still does not have a majority of seats; forming a coalition of anti-independence parties will be difficult. It is not surprising that Mr. Rajoy looks favourably on the Citizens party, which supports his centre-right People’s Party (PP) at the national level, enabling them to form a minority government in Madrid. This is especially significant in light of the dismal results of the PP in the Catalonian elections. The party won just three seats, down from 11 in the previous parliament. It behoves Mr. Rajoy, in his capacity as Prime Minister, to opt for the path of dialogue and understanding. This will likely involve, as a first step, facilitating the return of Mr. Puigdemont and the release of Mr. Junqueras and those who were jailed with him, potentially facing 30 years in prison for non-violent political acts. While giving in to expediency may be tempting, it will be costly for Catalonia and Spain in the longer term. Dialogue is crucial, given the complex and divisive issue of independence.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 4:44:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/a-complex-result/article22328095.ece

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